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Perception of Stimuli

Human Vision

• Vision requires 3 things:
– Light – Eyes – Brain

Creating an Image
1) Light rays bounce off an object that you are looking at. 2) The light rays enter your eye through the cornea which begins to focus the image. 3) The light rays then go through a hole called the pupil. The coloured iris surrounding the pupil opens and closes in response to the amount of light.

Creating an Image
4) The lens focuses the light on the retina. The center of focus is at the fovea. 5) Cells in the retina convert the light energy into an action potential. 6) The signals combine and send a message to the brain through the optic nerve. 7) The brain combines the images from both eyes and flips it upright.

The Retina
• Two types of sensory cells
• dominant in dim light conditions • only one type of rod cell • distributed throughout the retina • responsive to all visible wavelengths (420-590 nm) • Groups of rod cells send information by one ganglion axon (nerve fiber) in the optic nerve.

• dominant in bright line conditions • 3 types of cone cells • concentrated around the fovea • each cone type is optimized to absorb a different wavelength of colour -Short (violet – 420-440nm) -Medium (greens – 534-545nm) -Long (reds – 560 -590 nm) • Single nerve fiber required to send information to the optic nerve.

The Retina
Pathway of light

Rod Cell

Ganglion to optic nerve

Cone cell

Bipolar cell

The Retina
Pathway of light 1) Light enters the eye through the pupil and is focused on the retina by the lens. 2) The ganglion and bipolar cells are transparent, allowing light to pass through them and be absorbed by light sensitive pigments at the base of the rod/cone.

The Retina
Pathway of light 3) In the absence of light, the rod/cone cell releases an inhibitory neurotransmitter to the bipolar cell, preventing it from firing. When light is absorbed, the rate of this inhibitory neurotransmitter is reduced, and an action potential can be generated in the bipolar cell.

The Retina
Pathway of light 4) The bipolar cell transmits the action potential to the ganglion cells that then combine to form the optic nerve.

The Retina
Note that bipolar cells synapse with many different rod cells, combining the signals from several cells to send to the brain. However, with cone cells, there is often a one-to-one connection with the bipolar neuron.
How would this affect the brain’s ability to process information from rods versus cones in the retina?

The Retina
• Because several rod cells contribute to a single impulse in a bipolar cell, the brain cannot pinpoint the exact location of the light stimulus on the retina. With cone cells however, because one impulse is sent to the brain from each cone, the brain can pinpoint the exact location of the stimulus. This is why the center of your vision, at the fovea, is clear, while the periphery appears blurry.

Contralateral Processing
• The way in which the brain integrates information from both eyes into a 3 dimensional perception of the world.

Contralateral Processing
• Objects can be either in the left visual field or the right visual field. Both eyes sense objects in these fields. • The left visual field information from both eyes goes to the right side of the brain and the information from the right visual field goes to the left side of the brain.

The point at which the optic nerves cross is called the optic chiasm.

Edge Enhancement

Review of retina photoreception
• Many rods are linked to a single ganglion cell so that these regions of the retina have lower visual acuity. • Cones tend to have a lower ratio with ganglion cells. In the fovea, there is sometimes one-to-one correspondence. • A single ganglion cell may receive information from a number of rods and cones. The region of the retina covered by this arrangement of rods and cones is called the receptive field.

Review of retina continued…
• The fewer the rods and cones that supply a single ganglion, the smaller the receptive field and thus the higher the visual acuity. • The smallest receptive fields are in the fovea, which provides the most detailed information and is the site of best visual acuity.

Lateral inhibition
• Remember the contrast principle from your thermoreceptors? Your perception of stimuli is not an absolute measure but a relative one. • Changes in light intensity are enhanced by a process called lateral inhibition. • To understand lateral inhibition, we must first look more closely at connections between sensory cells in the retina.

Horizontal Cells
• Besides rods, cones, bipolar cells and ganglion cells, the retina also contains amacrine and horizontal cells. • Horizontal cells link photoreceptors and bipolar cells • Amacrine cells link bipolar and ganglion cells. • For our understanding of lateral inhibition and edge enhancement, we will focus on the function of the horizontal cells.

Function of Horizontal Cells

The above diagram represents a section of the fovea. Each receptor cell (grey) is linked to a bipolar cell (black). The horizontal cells are represented by the blue lines, and the red squares represent ganglion cells. In this diagram, the cells are all submitted to the same intensity of light.

Function of Horizontal Cells

• When stimulated, the receptor cell communicates with both the bipolar cell and the horizontal cell as they both synapse at the receptor. • Note that the horizontal cells link neighbouring photoreceptors. • When one photoreceptor is stimulated, for example A, the stimulus is transmitted to both the bipolar cell and the horizontal cells.

Function of Horizontal Cells

• Stimulation of the horizontal cells causes partial inhibition of neighbouring photoreceptors. • So, as B is stimulated, it inhibits the signal coming from A and C. • Since all cells in this diagram are receiving the same amount of light stimulus, they also receive the same amount of inhibition from neighbouring cells. This would be perceived as a uniform stimulus by the brain.

For example:
When viewing these two rectangles separately, the eye sees them as uniform in colour.

For example:
But when placed edge to edge
• The light rectangle appears to become lighter as it approaches the darker rectangle. • The dark rectangle appears to become darker as it approaches the light rectangle.

Why is this important?
• The retina enhances edges to make them more clear • This happens because neurons responding to the edge of a stimulus respond more strongly (due to less inhibition) than neurons responding to the middle.

Optical Illusions
Which center rectangle is darker? • The one on the right appears darker because there is lateral inhibition from the light rectangle surrounding it. However, in reality they are both the same colour.

Hermann Grid Illusion
Where on the grid would the receptor cells receive the greatest amount of lateral inhibition? Remember that the greater the intensity of the light on a receptor cell, the greater the inhibition is on the neighbouring cells.

Hermann Grid Illusion
The intersections have four white lines surrounding them, and therefore generate the greatest inhibition in neighbouring cells.

Because of this increased inhibition, the centers appear darker and this creates the grey circles.