Axis-of-Motion Affects Direction Discrimination, Not Speed Discrimination

Nestor Matthews and Ning Qian, Vision Research 1999, 39:2205-2211.
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The motion of an object can be described by a single velocity vector, or equivalently, by direction and speed separately. Similarly, our ability to see subtle differences in the motion of two objects could be constrained by either a velocity-based sensory response, or separate sensory responses to direction and speed. To distinguish between these possibilities we investigated whether direction discrimination and speed discrimination were differentially affected by changes in the axis-of-motion. Psychophysical data from 12 naive observers indicated that direction discrimination depended on axis-of-motion, but speed discrimination did not. The difference suggests that a velocity-based sensory response is not the limiting factor on the two tasks. Instead, the results imply that the sensory response which constrains speed discrimination is at least partially independent from the sensory response which constrains direction discrimination.

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