Fine grain of the neural representation of human spatial vision

Harvey S. Smallman, Donald I.A. MacLeod, Sheng He, Robert W. Kentridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


It is widely held that in human spatial vision the visual scene is initially processed through visual filters, each of which is responsive to narrow ranges of image spatial frequencies. The physiological basis of these filters are thought to be cortical neurons with receptive fields of different sizes. The grain of the neural representation of spatial vision is much finer than had been supposed. Using laser interferometry, which effectively bypasses the demodulation of the optics of the eye, we measured discrimination of, and adaptation to, high spatial frequency laser interference fringe patterns. Spatial frequency discrimination was good right up to the visual resolution limit (average Weber fractions of 0.13 at 50 c/deg). Both contrast and spatial frequency matches made after adapting to extremely fine interference fringes strongly suggested that there existed even finer, relatively unadapted, filters (mechanisms with small receptive fields). The smallest cortical receptive fields processing spatial information in human vision are so small that they can possess receptive field centers hardly wider than single cone photoreceptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1852-1859
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 1996


  • adaptation
  • laser interferometry
  • psychophysics
  • receptive field
  • spatial frequency
  • spatial vision
  • visual cortex


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