Sensation and Perception

Class IV: Retina & Visual Processing

The First Steps in Vision: Seeing Stars

A Little Light Physics Light: A wave; a stream of photons, tiny particles that each consist of one quantum of energy

A Little Light Physics
Light can be absorbed, scattered, reflected, transmitted, or refracted

• Absorbed: Energy (e.g., light) that is taken up,
and is not transmitted at all

• Scattered: Energy that is dispersed in an irregular
 When light enters the atmosphere, much of it is absorbed or scattered and never makes it to the perceiver

A Little Light Physics • Reflected: Energy that is redirected when it strikes a surface. light entering water from the air) . (e..g. usually back to its point of origin • Transmitted: Energy that is passed on through a surface (when it is neither reflected nor absorbed by the surface) • Refracted: Energy that is altered as it passes into another medium.

which allows changing focus .Eyes That See Light The human eye is made up of various parts: • Cornea: The transparent “window” into the eyeball • Aqueous humor: The watery fluid in the anterior chamber • Crystalline lens: The lens inside the eye.

which receive an image from the lens and send it to the brain through the optic nerve .Eyes That See Light • Pupil: The dark circular opening at the center of the iris in the eye. where light enters the eye • Vitreous humor: The transparent fluid that fills the vitreous chamber in the posterior part of the eye • Retina: A light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye that contains rods and cones.

2 The human right eye in cross section (viewed from above) .Figure 2.

Eyes That See Light Refraction is necessary to focus light rays and this is accomplished by the lens • Accommodation: The process in which the lens changes its shape. thus altering its refractive power • Emmetropia: The happy condition of no refractive error .

farsightedness • Hyperopia: When light entering the eye is focused behind • Astigmatism: A visual defect caused by the unequal curving of one or more of the refractive surfaces of the eye. nearsightedness the retina.Eyes That See Light Problems of refraction: • Sometimes the way the lens refracts light causes the point of focus of the image to be either in front of or behind the retina. In these cases. corrective lenses are needed to allow for normal vision • Myopia: When the light entering the eye is focused in front of the retina and distant objects cannot be seen sharply. usually the cornea .

Figure 2.3 Optics of the human eye .

Figure 2.4 Fan chart for astigmatism .

.Eyes That See Light Additional eye problems • Presbyopia: (“Old sight”).  Caused by sclerosis (hardening of lens) and loss of elasticity of the tissue that moves the lens • Cataracts: Opacities in the lens that develop through age or illness. The condition of being unable to accommodate the lens sufficiently to focus on nearby objects.

Eyes That See Light Using the ophthalmoscope. called the fundus . doctors can view the back surface of patients’ eyes.

Eyes That See Light Blind spot demo .

fine visual acuity and color  Respond best with lots of light .Retinal Information Processing Photoreceptors: Cells in the retina that initially transduce light energy into neural energy • Rods: Photoreceptors that are specialized for night vision  Respond well in low lighting  Do not process color • Cones: Photoreceptors that are specialized for daylight vision.

8 Rods and cones .Figure 2.

• This decrease is the neural signal that there’s light on that spot in the retina. and thus a decrease in transmitter release. • When there is no light. they are constantly depolarized by Na+ and Ca2+ currents in the outer segment.Photoreceptors exhibit “dark current”. • Light causes a reduction in the dark current. they are constantly releasing neurotransmitter (glutamate). • Consequently. .

The hyperpolarization reduces transmitter release.Visual Transduction Light (photons) activates rhodopsin molecules. thus sending a neural signal. . Each phosphodiesterase molecule hydrolyzes (inactivates) hundreds of cGMP molecules. The drop in active cGMP levels causes a hyperpolarization of the photoreceptor. Each rhodopsin molecule activates hundreds of transducin molecules Each transducin molecule activates hundreds of phosphodiesterase molecules.


Figure 2.7 Photomicrograph of the retina .

rods do not This means that you have very poor color vision in your periphery. It may seem as if your entire field of view has full-resolution color. but it does not .Retinal Information Processing The distribution of rods and cones is not constant over the retina Cones process color.

Figure 2.9 Photoreceptor density across the retina .


DEMONSTRATION: Foveal vs peripheral vision .


Retinal Information Processing • Vision scientists measure the size of visual stimuli by how large an image appears on the retina rather than by how large the object is • The standard way to measure retinal size is in terms of “degrees of visual angle” • The rule of thumb: If you hold your thumb out at arms length. the width of your thumbnail is about 2 degrees of visual angle In summary: The visual angle of an object is a function of both its actual size and distance from the observer .

10 The “rule of thumb” .Figure 2.

Whistling in the Dark: Dark and Light Adaptation One of the most remarkable things about the human visual system is the incredible range of luminance levels to which we can adjust THREE mechanisms for dark and light adaptation: • Pupil dilation • Photopigment replacement rates • Changing connections between retinal neurons • Pooling of inputs from multiple photoreceptors in low light • “parasitic” electrical connections between rods and cones (more later) .

Figure 2.17 The possible range of pupil sizes in bright illumination versus dark .

and the more photopigments there are to process what little light is there . and the fewer photopigments there are to process more light  The less light entering the retina. the more slowly photopigments are used up.Whistling in the Dark: Dark and Light Adaptation Neural circuitry of the retina accounts for why we are not bothered by variations in overall light levels • The amount of photopigment available in photoreceptors changes over time  The more light entering the retina. the faster the photopigments are used up.

beyond whatever level of luminance the eye is adapted to . the number of photopigments in the photoreceptors decreases over a few minutes • What it means to be light-adapted is that even though there are more photons coming into the eye. letting in less light • Next. and ignores whatever variation in overall light level is left over • In bright light. the remaining variations in light are ignored. there are fewer photopigments available to process them. the pupil contracts.Whistling in the Dark: Dark and Light Adaptation The visual system regulates the amount of light entering the eye. so some of the light is “thrown away” • In this sense.

The Man Who Could Not See Stars Retinitis pigmentosa (RP): A family of hereditary diseases that involves the progressive death of photoreceptors and degeneration of the pigment epithelium • Many people may not notice the onset of retinitis pigmentosa at first because it primarily affects peripheral vision .

5 Fundus of the right eye of a human .Figure 2.

Figure 2.18 Fundus of a patient with retinitis pigmentosa .

The Man Who Could Not See Stars • Visual field tests for someone with normal vision compared with someone with retinitis pigmentosa .

Figure 2.7 Photomicrograph of the retina .

which then signals the horizontal and bipolar cells that synapse with it – Bipolar cells are connected to amacrine cells and ganglion cells – Ganglion cells have axons that leave the retina through the optic disc (blind spot) .Retinal Information Processing • Light passes through several layers of cells before reaching the rods and cones • The Vertical Pathway: photoreceptor to bipolar to ganglion cell – Light activates a photoreceptor.

Retinal Information Processing • P ganglion cells: “Small cells. They have excellent temporal resolution but poor spatial resolution . and shape processing.” Connect to the magnocellular pathway – Magnocellular pathway is involved in motion processing. color.” Connect to the parvocellular pathway – Parvocellular pathway is involved in fine visual acuity. They have poor temporal resolution but good spatial resolution • M ganglion cells: “Large cells.

Figure 3.11 The primate lateral geniculate nucleus .

which creates the center–surround receptive field structure – Amacrine cells: These cells synapse horizontally between bipolar cells and retinal ganglion cells .Retinal Information Processing • Various regions of the retina interact via lateral connections – Horizontal cells: These cells are responsible for lateral inhibition.

Lateral Inhibition .

Lateral Inhibition .

Retinal Information Processing • Receptive field: The region in space in which stimuli will activate a neuron .

Spatial Vision .• Next class: More of Chapter 3.