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Contour detection threshold: repeatability and learning with 'contour cards'

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Human observers are able to locate contours that are defined solely on the basis of long-range, orientation-domain correlations. The integrity of the mechanisms responsible for second-order contour detection is disrupted by amblyopia (Kovacs et al., 1996; Hess et al., 1997) and it is therefore of interest to develop methods for assessing pediatric patients undergoing treatment for amblyopia. In this study, we have determined the inter-observer and test-retest reliability of a card-based test of second-order contour integration. The magnitude of practice effects was also assessed in both adult and pediatric patient groups. Contour detection thresholds were measured for a closed contour, defined by Gabor patches, embedded in a randomly oriented Gabor-patch background. The visibility of the contour was controlled by varying the density of the background elements. Thresholds, defined in terms of the ratio of contour element spacing to average background spacing were measured with a clinical staircase procedure. Thresholds measured by two observers differed on average by 0.023 ± 0.075 or about one half the increment between cards. Children and adults showed only small practice effects (0.022 ± 0.051 vs 0.053 ± 0.077, respectively) and average unsigned differences between repeated measures were equivalent to approximately 1 card across groups. A card-based test of second-order contour integration produces reliable estimates of contour integration performance in normal and amblyopic observers, including children.

Affiliations: 1: Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Eaton Road, Liverpool, L12 2AP, UK; 2: Laboratory of Vision Research, Rutgers University, Busch Campus. New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA; 3: Institute for Vision Research, Rehovot, 76105, Israel; 4: Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA


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