Independent detectors for expansion and rotation, and for orthogonal components of deformation

Timothy S. Meese*, Mike G. Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well known that optic flow - the smooth transformation of the retinal image experienced by a moving observer - contains valuable information about the three-dimensional layout of the environment. From psychophysical and neurophysiological experiments, specialised mechanisms responsive to components of optic flow (sometimes called complex motion) such as expansion and rotation have been inferred. However, it remains unclear (a) whether the visual system has mechanisms for processing the component of deformation and (b) whether there are multiple mechanisms that function independently from each other. Here, we investigate these issues using random-dot patterns and a forced-choice subthreshold summation technique. In experiment 1, we manipulated the size of a test region that was permitted to contain signal and found substantial spatial summation for signal components of translation, expansion, rotation, and deformation embedded in noise. In experiment 2, little or no summation was found for the superposition of orthogonal pairs of complex motion patterns (eg expansion and rotation), consistent with probability summation between pairs of independent detectors. Our results suggest that optic-flow components are detected by mechanisms that are specialised for particular patterns of complex motion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1189-1202
Number of pages14
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


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