Comparative study of electrophysiological and psychophysical measurement of the contrast sensitivity function in humans

Am J Optom Physiol Opt. 1986 Jun;63(6):442-9. doi: 10.1097/00006324-198606000-00008.


We measured the human contrast sensitivity function (CSF) both electrophysiologically with the steady-state visual evoked potential (VEP) and psychophysically using a method of ascending limits. VEP contrast thresholds were determined using a rapid recording technique in which the contrast of a counterphase modulated sine wave grating was swept logarithmically from 0.5 to 40% over a period of 10 s. For this pattern reversal stimulus the amplitude and phase of the second harmonic response as a function of contrast were measured using a discrete Fourier transform (DFT). Psychophysical thresholds were determined on the same trials used to record the VEP. Near threshold the VEP amplitude vs. contrast function was approximately linear and VEP contrast thresholds were estimated by a linear extrapolation to zero amplitude. The contrast thresholds obtained by the two methods correlated at 0.914 for 5 observers, with a mean discrepancy of only 12%. At higher contrasts, the VEP amplitude vs. contrast function often became nonmonotonic, sometimes showing two amplitude peaks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Humans
  • Psychophysics / methods*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Vision Tests*