Ocular-following responses to white noise stimuli in humans reveal a novel nonlinearity that results from temporal sampling

J Vis. 2016;16(1):8. doi: 10.1167/16.1.8.


White noise stimuli are frequently used to study the visual processing of broadband images in the laboratory. A common goal is to describe how responses are derived from Fourier components in the image. We investigated this issue by recording the ocular-following responses (OFRs) to white noise stimuli in human subjects. For a given speed we compared OFRs to unfiltered white noise with those to noise filtered with band-pass filters and notch filters. Removing components with low spatial frequency (SF) reduced OFR magnitudes, and the SF associated with the greatest reduction matched the SF that produced the maximal response when presented alone. This reduction declined rapidly with SF, compatible with a winner-take-all operation. Removing higher SF components increased OFR magnitudes. For higher speeds this effect became larger and propagated toward lower SFs. All of these effects were quantitatively well described by a model that combined two factors: (a) an excitatory drive that reflected the OFRs to individual Fourier components and (b) a suppression by higher SF channels where the temporal sampling of the display led to flicker. This nonlinear interaction has an important practical implication: Even with high refresh rates (150 Hz), the temporal sampling introduced by visual displays has a significant impact on visual processing. For instance, we show that this distorts speed tuning curves, shifting the peak to lower speeds. Careful attention to spectral content, in the light of this nonlinearity, is necessary to minimize the resulting artifact when using white noise patterns undergoing apparent motion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Noise*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*