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J Physiol. 2005 Sep 1;567(Pt 2):665-71. Epub 2005 Jun 23.

Colour helps to solve the binocular matching problem.

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Helmholtz Institute, Department of Physics of Man, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


The spatial differences between the two retinal images, called binocular disparities, can be used to recover the three-dimensional (3D) aspects of a scene. The computation of disparity depends upon the correct identification of corresponding features in the two images. Understanding what image features are used by the brain to solve this binocular matching problem is an important issue in research on stereoscopic vision. The role of colour in binocular vision is controversial and it has been argued that colour is ineffective in achieving binocular vision. In the current experiment subjects were required to indicate the amount of perceived depth. The stimulus consisted of an array of fronto-parallel bars uniformly distributed in a constant sized volume. We studied the perceived depth in those 3D stimuli by manipulating both colour (monochrome, trichrome) and luminance (congruent, incongruent). Our results demonstrate that the amount of perceived depth was influenced by colour, indicating that the visual system uses colour to achieve binocular matching. Physiological data have revealed cortical cells in macaque V2 that are tuned both to binocular disparity and to colour. We suggest that one of the functional roles of these cells may be to help solve the binocular matching problem.

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