Touch disambiguates rivalrous perception at early stages of visual analysis,Curr Biol, 4 (20), R143-144.

Binocular rivalry is a powerful tool to study human consciousness: two equally salient stimuli are imaged on the retinae, but at any given instant only one is consciously perceived, the other suppressed.The suppression takes place early, probably in V1. However, a trace of the suppressed signal has been detected along the dorsal visual pathway (BOLD responses) and demonstrated with psychophysical experiments. The suppressed image of a rotating sphere during rivalry is restored to consciousness when the observer actively controls the rotation and a similar effect on the suppressed signal has been shown for motion perception and reflexive eye movements (see Supplemental References). Here, we asked whether cross-modal sensory signals could selectively interact with rivalrous visual signals that are analyzed at a very early stage, probably V1. An auditory stimulus, when attended, can influence binocular rivalry, extending dominance times for a congruent visual stimulus. Tactile information can also disambiguate unstable visual motion and can fuse with vision to improve discrimination (e.g. slant). Our results indicate that a haptic oriented stimulus can disambiguate visual perception during binocular rivalry of gratings of orthogonal orientation, not only by prolonging dominance but also by curtailing suppression of the visual stimulus of matched orientation. The effect is selective for the spatial frequency of the stimuli, suggesting that haptic signals interact with early visual representations to enhance access to conscious perception.

Saccades compress space, time and number,Trends Cogn Sci, 12 (14), 528-533.

It has been suggested that space, time and number are represented on a common subjective scale. Saccadic eye movements provide a fascinating test. Saccades compress the perceived magnitude of spatial separations and temporal intervals to approximately half of their true value. The question arises as to whether saccades also compress number. They do, and compression follows a very similar time course for all three attributes: it is maximal at saccadic onset and decreases to veridicality within a window of approximately 50ms. These results reinforce the suggestion of a common perceptual metric, which is probably mediated by the intraparietal cortex; they further suggest that before each saccade the common metric for all three is reset, possibly to pave the way for a fresh analysis of the post-saccadic situation.

Temporal auditory capture does not affect the time course of saccadic mislocalization of visual stimuli,J Vis, 2 (10), 7 1-13.

Irrelevant sounds can “capture” visual stimuli to change their apparent timing, a phenomenon sometimes termed “temporal ventriloquism”. Here we ask whether this auditory capture can alter the time course of spatial mislocalization of visual stimuli during saccades. We first show that during saccades, sounds affect the apparent timing of visual flashes, even more strongly than during fixation. However, this capture does not affect the dynamics of perisaccadic visual distortions. Sounds presented 50 ms before or after a visual bar (that change perceived timing of the bars by more than 40 ms) had no measurable effect on the time courses of spatial mislocalization of the bars, in four subjects. Control studies showed that with barely visible, low-contrast stimuli, leading, but not trailing, sounds can have a small effect on mislocalization, most likely attributable to attentional effects rather than auditory capture. These findings support previous studies showing that integration of multisensory information occurs at a relatively late stage of sensory processing, after visual representations have undergone the distortions induced by saccades.

Spatial maps for time and motion,Exp Brain Res, 2 (206), 121-128.

In this article, we review recent research studying the mechanisms for transforming coordinate systems to encode space, time and motion. A range of studies using functional imaging and psychophysical techniques reveals mechanisms in the human brain for encoding information in external rather than retinal coordinates. This reinforces the idea of a tight relationship between space and time, in the parietal cortex of primates.

Adaptation and mislocalization fields for saccadic outward adaptation in humans,Journal of Eye Movement Research, 4 (3), 1-18.

Adaptive shortening of a saccade influences the metrics of other saccades withina spatial window around the adapted target. Within this adaptation field visualstimuli presented before an adapted saccade are mislocalized in proportion to thechange of the saccade metric. We investigated the saccadic adaptation field andassociated localization changes for saccade lengthening, or outward adaptation. Wemeasured the adaptation field for two different saccade adaptations (14 deg to 20deg and 20 deg to 26 deg) by testing transfer to 34 different target positions. Wemeasured localization judgements by asking subjects to localize a probe flashedbefore saccade onset. The amount of adaptation transfer differed for different targetlocations. It increased with increases of the horizontal component of the saccade andremained largely constant with deviation of the vertical component of the saccade.Mislocalization of probes inside the adaptation field was correlated with the amountof adaptation of saccades to the probe location. These findings are consistent withthe assumption that oculomotor space and perceptual space are linked to each other.

Alpha waves: a neural signature of visual suppression,Exp Brain Res, 3-4 (207), 213-219.

Alpha waves are traditionally considered a passive consequence of the lack of stimulation of sensory areas. However, recent results have challenged this view by showing a modulation of alpha activity in cortical areas representing unattended information during active tasks. These data have led us to think that alpha waves would support a ‘gating function’ on sensorial stimulation that actively inhibits unattended information in attentional tasks. Visual suppression occurring during a saccade and blink entails an inhibition of incoming visual information, and it seems to occur at an early processing stage. In this study, we hypothesized that the neural mechanism through which the visual system exerts this inhibition is the active imposition of alpha oscillations in the occipital cortex, which in turn predicts an increment of alpha amplitude during a visual suppression phenomena. We measured visual suppression occurring during short closures of the eyelids, a situation well suited for EEG recordings and stimulated the retinae with an intra-oral light administered through the palate. In the behavioral experiment, detection thresholds were measured with eyes steady open and steady closed, showing a reduction of sensitivity in the latter case. In the EEG recordings performed under identical conditions we found stronger alpha activity with closed eyes. Since the stimulation does not depend on whether the eyes were open or closed, we reasoned that this should be a central effect, probably due to a functional role of alpha oscillation in agreement with the ‘gating function’ theory.

Brain development: critical periods for cross-sensory plasticity,Curr Biol, 21 (20), R934-936.

Recent work has shown that visual deprivation of humans during a critical period leads to motion area MT+ responding to auditory motion. This cross-sensory plasticity, an important form of brain reorganization, may be mediated by top-down brain circuits from pre-frontal cortex.

Compression of time during smooth pursuit eye movements,Vision Res, 24 (50), 2702-2713.

Humans have a clear sense for the passage of time, but while implicit motor timing is quite accurate, explicit timing is prone to distortions particularly during action (Wenke & Haggard, 2009) and saccadic eye movements (Morrone, Ross, & Burr, 2005). Here, we investigated whether perceived duration is also affected by the execution of smooth pursuit eye movements, showing a compression of apparent duration similar to that observed during saccades. To this end, we presented two brief bars that marked intervals between 100 and 300 ms and asked subjects to judge their duration during fixation and pursuit. We found a compression of perceived duration for bars modulated in luminance contrast of about 32% and for bars modulated in chromatic contrast of 14% during pursuit compared to fixation. Interestingly, Weber ratios were similar for fixation and pursuit, if they are expressed as ratio between JND and perceived duration. This compression was constant for pursuit speeds from 7 to 14 deg/s and did not occur for intervals marked by auditory events. These results argue for a modality-specific component in the processing of temporal information.

Contrast reduction and reading: assessment and reliability with the Reading Explorer test,Eur J Ophthalmol, 2 (20), 389-396.

PURPOSE: To investigate the reliability of the Reading Explorer (REX) charts and to assess the impact of text contrast reduction (1.5 cycle/degree) on reading speed in subjects with normal and low vision. METHODS: Standard visual acuity (ETDRS charts), reading speed (MNread charts), and contrast sensitivity (Pelli-Robson charts) measurements were obtained in 3 groups of subjects stratified by visual acuity level in the better eye from 0.0 to 1.0 logMAR, with intermediate cutoffs at 0.3 and 0.6 logMAR. Measurements of reading speed for decreasing levels of text contrast were obtained with the REX charts using a 1.5 cycle/degree text. RESULTS: Since in many patients with lower vision a plateau of maximum reading speed across different levels of text contrast was not found, reliability indexes were computed for average reading speed and reading contrast threshold. In the group with lower visual acuity, 95% limits of agreement were +/-0.134 log word/minute and +/-0.175 log contrast sensitivity, suggesting good reliability. The proportion of subjects with a 20% loss of reading speed from 90% to 45% text contrast was estimated to be 1/3 at 0.6 logMAR visual acuity level and 2/3 at 1.0 logMAR. CONCLUSIONS: The adverse effect of decreased text contrast, which may be found in ordinary reading material, on the reading performance of subjects with advanced and initial low vision is probably underestimated. The REX test proved to be a reliable investigation tool for this phenomenon.

Cortical visual function in preterm infants in the first year,J Pediatr, 4 (156), 550-555.

OBJECTIVE: To assess visual function in low-risk preterm infants at 3, 5, and 12 months corrected age to determine whether the maturation of visual function in the first year is similar to that reported in term-born infants. STUDY DESIGN: Seventy-five low-risk infants (25.0-30.9 weeks gestation) underwent ophthalmological examinations and a battery of tests (fix and follow, visual fields, acuity, attention at distance, and fixation shift) designed to assess various aspects of visual function at 3, 5, and 12 months corrected age. RESULTS: The results were comparable with normative data from term-born infants in all tests but fixation shift, suggesting that maturation of most aspects of visual function is not significantly affected by preterm birth. In contrast, >25% of preterm infants failed the fixation shift test at 3 months, with a higher percentage of failing at 5 and 12 months. CONCLUSIONS: There is a specific profile of early visual behavior in low-risk preterm infants, with a high percentage of infants failing a test that specifically assesses visual attention and provides a measure of cortical processing.