Contrast and stimulus complexity moderate the relationship between spatial frequency and perceived speed

Implications for MT models of speed perception

Kevin R. Brooks*, Thomas Morris, Peter Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


Area MT in extrastriate visual cortex is widely believed to be responsible for the perception of object speed. Recent physiological data show that many cells in macaque visual area MT change their speed preferences with a change in stimulus spatial frequency (N. J. Priebe, C. R. Cassanello, & S. G. Lisberger, 2003) and that this effect can accurately predict the dependence of perceived speed on spatial frequency demonstrated in a related psychophysical study (N. J. Priebe & S. G. Lisberger, 2004). For more complex compound gratings and high contrast stimuli, MT cell speed preferences show sharper tuning and less dependence on spatial frequency (Priebe et al., 2003), allowing us to predict that such stimuli should produce speed percepts that are less vulnerable to spatial frequency variations. We investigated the perceived speed of simple sine wave gratings and more complex compound gratings (formed from 2 sine wave components) in response to changes in contrast and spatial frequency. In all cases, high contrast stimuli appeared to translate more rapidly. In addition, high spatial frequencies appeared fasterVthe opposite effect to that predicted by changes in MT cell spatial frequency preferences. Complex grating stimuli were somewhat " protected" from the effect of spatial frequency (compared to simple gratings), as predicted. However, contrary to predictions, the effect of spatial frequency was larger in high (compared to low) contrast gratings. Our data demonstrate that the previously established links between changes in MT cells' speed preferences and human speed perception are more complex than first thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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