Primate flicker sensitivity: psychophysics and electrophysiology

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Science  03 Dec 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4269, pp. 1077-1079
DOI: 10.1126/science.824735


A quantitative comparison is made between the psychophysical flicker response of man and similar data obtained electrophysiologically from the cones of macaque monkeys. When the psychophysical data are obtained from an eye that is strongly light-adapted, there is excellent agreement between the two sets of data at high frequencies. Under this condition, both kinds of data fit a distributed-parameter model, whose time constant also agrees with that derived from studies of the phosphenes elicited by electrical stimulation of the human eye. On the other hand, psychophysical data obtained with fully modulated stimuli (which minimally adapt the eye) yield a longer time constant for the same model. These results imply that the psychophysical flicker thresholds are normally controlled by a distributed filtering process that is proximal to the receptor stage. This slower, psychophysical process is evidently desensitized by intense adapting lights, so that the faster one that governs the electrophysiological responses can be detected.