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Psychology 4051. Vernier Acuity. Vernier Acuity. The smallest amount of misalignment that can be detected within a stimulus. Usually measured by determining the smallest offset that can be detected within a single line, or series of lines. Vernier Acuity.

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Psychology 4051

Psychology 4051

Vernier Acuity

Vernier acuity
Vernier Acuity

  • The smallest amount of misalignment that can be detected within a stimulus.

  • Usually measured by determining the smallest offset that can be detected within a single line, or series of lines.

Vernier acuity1
Vernier Acuity

  • Human vernier acuity is exceptional.

  • Often measures -0.2 to -0.4 logMAR.

    • 20/12 to 20/8.

  • This is superior to both optotype acuity and to grating acuity.

  • Superior to what would be predicted based on photoreceptor properties.

    • Referred to as a hyperacuity

Measurement of vernier acuity
Measurement of Vernier Acuity

  • In adults, it’s simply measured as the smallest offset that can be detect.

  • In young children, it can be measured using sweep VEP or FPL techniques.

  • In sweep VEPs, the participant is presented with a square wave grating or checkerboard pattern in which the amount of misalignment is swept.

Measurement of vernier acuity1
Measurement of Vernier Acuity

  • VEPs are recorded as misalignment is swept

  • Slope is determined for the VEP as it approaches background noise.

  • The point where the slope intercepts background noise is a measure of vernier acuity

Measurement of vernier acuity2
Measurement of Vernier Acuity

  • In FPL, a misaligned square wave grating can be paired with normal square wave grating.

The square grating is very salient. Subjects may prefer this

stimulus if they detect it first.

Measurement of vernier acuity3
Measurement of Vernier Acuity

  • This can be fixed using vernier acuity cards in which the entire card is covered with a square wave grating.

  • Part of the square wave grating is misaligned in the form of a shape that is familiar to toddlers.

Development of vernier acuity
Development of Vernier Acuity

  • Initially, vernier acuity was thought to be poorer than grating acuity until 3-4 months of age.

  • Then it improved rapidly until it reached adult level at approximately 4 years of age.

  • These early studies were flawed in that the misaligned stimulus was shifted from an aligned to a misaligned position to maintain the attention of the infants.

Development of vernier acuity1
Development of Vernier Acuity

  • Skoczenski and Norcia (2002) used VEPs to show that vernier acuity is poorer than grating acuity until about 4 years of age.

  • Vernier acuity does not reach adult level until adolescence.

  • This course of development has been confirmed using FPL.

Mechanisms underlying development
Mechanisms Underlying Development

  • Given its slow maturation compared to grating acuity and the fact it’s a hyperacuity, vernier acuity is not likely mediated by photoreceptor properties.

  • Appears to cortically mediated.

    • Children with cortical impairment show selective deficits in vernier acuity.

  • Achievement of adult level corresponds with synaptic pruning.

Psychology 40511

Psychology 4051

Visual System Plasticity

Visual system plasticity
Visual System Plasticity

  • The first decade of life represents a period of substantial development of the visual system.

  • This is also a period of plasticity during which connections to the visual cortex are susceptible to environmental insult.

  • This period represents a critical/sensitive period during which normal visual experience is necessary for the formation of connections to the visual cortex.

Visual system plasticity1
Visual System Plasticity

  • Visual deprivation caused by visual insult can impede the formation of these connections.

  • During this time the eyes are in competition to form cortical connections.

  • Monocular visual deprivation can lead severely impair connections from the deprived eye.

Animal studies
Animal Studies

  • Hubel and Wiesel have conducted numerous studies indicating that early visual deprivation causes severe changes to the visual system.

  • Cats and monkeys generally have an eye sutured shut early in life.

    • Animal undergo single cell recordings

  • In animals, the critical period appears to be between eye opening (or birth) and puberty.

Animal studies1
Animal Studies

  • The length of the visual deprivation and the timing of the deprivation is very important.

    • Longer deprivation is generally more drastic.

    • But there are periods in which animals are extremely sensitive even to short periods of deprivation.

Anatomical physiological effects
Anatomical/Physiological Effects

  • There are no effects on cells in the retina.

  • LGN cells corresponding to the deprived eye are smaller but respond normally.

  • Most of the effects are in the visual cortex.

  • Overall, there is a decline in the number of cortical cells driven by the deprived eye.

    • Found in all cortical layers.

Anatomical physiological effects1
Anatomical/Physiological Effects

  • Animals who are forced to use the deprived eye later, often behave as though they are blind.

  • Researchers have also investigated the effects of surgically-induced strabismus.

  • Most cells in the visual cortex are monocular.


  • While in this period of plasticity some of the effects of monocular deprivation can be reversed by reverse suturing.

    • Sewing the other eye shut to force the use of the deprived eye.

  • If done during the critical period, the deprived eye regains cortical connections and acuity improves.

Human studies
Human Studies

  • Researchers have investigated the effects of naturally occurring deprivation in humans by looking at children who had cataracts.

    • Opacity on the lens that prevents the formation of a sharp image.

  • These studies confirm that the critical period lasts from birth to 10 years.

Human studies1
Human Studies

  • Longer periods produce more severe effects, but timing is also important.

    • Leads to poorer visual acuities.

  • Early deprivation tends to produce drastic effects.

  • The effects of bilateral cataracts are far less severe.

    • Competition between the eyes is not compromised.