Exploring the third dimension with eye movements: better than stereopsis

Vision Res. 1991;31(9):1549-62. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(91)90132-o.


Eye movements are usually presumed to be irrelevant for (or detrimental to) stereoacuity. When targets of interest are not adjacent, however, better discrimination of distance can be achieved by looking back and forth between them. In order to exclude ordinary stereopsis and examine this viewing strategy in isolation, judgements of apparent equidistance have been obtained for pairs of small targets separated horizontally by the angular spacing that corresponds to the fovea-to-blind-spot distance. Precise, stereopsis-like evaluations of relative distance can be made by fixating each of those targets in turn, even if they are not simultaneously presented but are instead shown in alternation. Sequential comparisons of stimuli are thus involved in this form of distance discrimination, but direct utilization of oculomotor information (vergence) is rendered unlikely because very brief target presentation is sufficient. Hence, the evidence argues for "sequential stereopsis": comparisons of the disparities of targets, both seen foveally, before and after saccades. This interpretation makes stringent demands on oculomotor coordination during saccades, but measurements of vergence "noise" indicate that this requirement can probably be fulfilled.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Convergence, Ocular / physiology
  • Depth Perception / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Distance Perception / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optic Disk / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*