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Vision Res. 2003 Jul;43(16):1723-34.

A mechanistic inter-species comparison of flicker sensitivity.

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Silsoe Research Institute, Wrest Park, Silsoe, Beds. MK45 4HS, UK.


The general validity of both the Rovamo [Vision Res. 39 (1999) 533] and Barten (Contrast sensitivity of the human eye, SPIE Optical Engineering Press, 1999), modulation transfer function models for describing flicker sensitivity in vertebrates was examined using published data for goldfish, chickens, tree shrews, ground squirrels, cats, pigeons and humans. Both models adequately described the flicker response in each species at frequencies greater than approximately 1 Hz. At lower frequencies, response predictions differed between the two models and this was due, in part, to dissimilar definitions of the role played by lateral inhibition in the retina. Modelled flicker sensitivity for a matched retinal illuminance condition enabled a direct inter-species comparison of signal processing response times at the photoreceptor level. The modelled results also quantified differences between species in post-retinal signal processing capability. Finally, the relationship between flicker frequency response curves and the perception of temporal signals in real visual scenes was examined for each species. It is proposed that the area under the flicker sensitivity function may offer a single "figure of merit" for specifying overall sensitivity to time signals in a species' environment.

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