Neural mechanisms underlying stereoscopic vision

Prog Neurobiol. 1998 Jun;55(3):191-224. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(98)00012-4.


The progressive frontalization of both eyes in mammals causes overlap of the left and right visual fields, having as a consequence a region of binocular field with single vision and stereopsis. The horizontal separation of the eyes makes the retinal images of the objects lying in this binocular field have slight horizontal and vertical differences, termed disparities. Horizontal disparities are the main cue for stereopsis. In the past decades numerous physiological studies made on monkeys, which have in many aspects a similar visual system to humans, showed that a population of visual cells are capable of encoding the amplitude and sign of horizontal disparity. Such disparity detectors were found in cortical visual areas V1, V2, V3, V3A, VP, MT (V5) and MST of monkeys and in the superior colliculus of the cat and opossum. According to their disparity tuning function, these cells were first grouped into tuned excitatory, tuned inhibitory, near and far sub-groups. Subsequent studies added two more categories, tuned near and tuned far cells. Asymmetries between left and right receptive field position, on and off regions, and intra-receptive field wiring are believed to be the neural mechanisms of disparity detection. Because horizontal disparity alone is insufficient to compute reliable stereopsis, additional information about fixation distance and angle of gaze is required. Thus, while there is unequivocal evidence of cells capable of detecting horizontal disparities, it is not known how horizontal disparity is calibrated. Sensitivity to vertical disparity and information about the vergence angle or eye position may be the source of this additional information.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Depth Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Vision Disparity / physiology
  • Vision, Binocular / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*