Abstract

To investigate the spatial-frequency components that govern letter identification we compared contrast thresholds for three types of visual stimulus (1) standard Sloan letters, (2) Sloan letters that were spatially bandpass filtered by cosine log filters, and (3) D6 patterns (sixth spatial derivatives of Gaussians). Stimuli were presented on a gray-scale display screen of a Macintosh computer-based testing system at temporal frequencies primarily of 2 and 16 Hz. Contrast thresholds were measured in two subjects with normal visual acuity with use of forced-choice staircases. Contrast sensitivity functions for standard Sloan letters and D6 patterns were comparable at a temporal frequency of 16 Hz but differed systematically at a temporal frequency of 2 Hz. The measurement of contrast sensitivity for cosine log filtered letters presented at a temporal frequency of 2 Hz indicated that the object spatial frequency of maximum sensitivity shifted to lower frequencies as letter size decreased, whereas the retinal spatial frequency of maximum sensitivity remained relatively constant. When letters were spatially bandpass filtered at a peak object spatial frequency of 2.5 cycles/letter, then contrast sensitivity functions for letter identification were equivalent to those for D6 patterns at both temporal frequencies. These results suggest that spatially filtered letters may provide a more appropriate test of visual function than do standard letter optotypes.

© 1994 Optical Society of America

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