Motion parallax, the ability to recover depth from retinal motion generated by observer translation, is important for visual depth perception. Recent work indicates that the perception of depth from motion parallax relies on the slow eye movement system. It is well known that ethanol intoxication reduces the gain of this system, and this produces the horizontal gaze nystagmus that law enforcement's field sobriety test is intended to reveal. The current study demonstrates that because of its influence on the slow eye movement system, ethanol intoxication impairs the perception of depth from motion parallax. Thresholds in a motion parallax task were significantly increased by acute ethanol intoxication, whereas thresholds for an identical test relying on binocular disparity were unaffected. Perhaps a failure of motion parallax plays a role in alcohol-related driving accidents; because of the effects of alcohol on eye movements, intoxicated drivers may have inaccurate or inadequate information for judging the relative depth of obstacles from motion parallax.
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