Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Visual sensitivity to temporal modulations of temporal noise

The present endeavor is meant (a) to provide a direct comparison between first- and second-order temporal modulation and, by so doing, (b) to eliminate all spatial clues that might have contaminated previous assessments of the second-order temporal modulation transfer function (TMTF). The second aim was achieved by means of the temporal modulation of a purely temporal white noise, a stimulus used frequently in psychoacoustics but not used as yet in visual stimulation. Luminance and contrast temporal modulation thresholds were measured with a 2AFC staircase procedure. In the first case, the mean luminance of a spatially homogeneous, 30 field was modulated sinusoidally over time (first-order modulation). In the second case, the luminance of the same or of a 60 field was randomized over time at a rate of 150 Hz and this temporal white noise (the carrier) was modulated sinusoidally over time (second-order modulation). First-order thresholds reproduce the classical (large field) flicker sensitivity. Second-order thresholds (measured for the first time with purely temporal stimuli) are at least 100 times higher than first-order ones, display a low-pass characteristic (at least up to 0.5 Hz) and yield a critical fusion frequency (measured at 100% modulation) of 􏰉10 Hz. The data are in accord with other estimates of the TMTF of the second-order system and thus confirm the effective neutralization of the spatial cues present in these previous studies.