Integration time for the perception of depth from motion parallax

Mark Nawrot, Keith Stroyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The perception of depth from relative motion is believed to be a slow process that "builds-up" over a period of observation. However, in the case of motion parallax, the potential accuracy of the depth estimate suffers as the observer translates during the viewing period. Our recent quantitative model for the perception of depth from motion parallax proposes that relative object depth (d) can be determined from retinal image motion (d θ/d. t), pursuit eye movement (d α/d. t), and fixation distance (f) by the formula: d/. f≈. d θ/d α. Given the model's dynamics, it is important to know the integration time required by the visual system to recover d α and d θ, and then estimate d. Knowing the minimum integration time reveals the incumbent error in this process. A depth-phase discrimination task was used to determine the time necessary to perceive depth-sign from motion parallax. Observers remained stationary and viewed a briefly translating random-dot motion parallax stimulus. Stimulus duration varied between trials. Fixation on the translating stimulus was monitored and enforced with an eye-tracker. The study found that relative depth discrimination can be performed with presentations as brief as 16.6. ms, with only two stimulus frames providing both retinal image motion and the stimulus window motion for pursuit (mean range = 16.6-33.2. ms). This was found for conditions in which, prior to stimulus presentation, the eye was engaged in ongoing pursuit or the eye was stationary. A large high-contrast masking stimulus disrupted depth-discrimination for stimulus presentations less than 70-75. ms in both pursuit and stationary conditions. This interval might be linked to ocular-following response eye-movement latencies. We conclude that neural mechanisms serving depth from motion parallax generate a depth estimate much more quickly than previously believed. We propose that additional sluggishness might be due to the visual system's attempt to determine the maximum d θ/d α ratio for a selection of points on a complicated stimulus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-71
Number of pages8
JournalVision research
StatePublished - Apr 15 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Binocular stereopsis
  • Depth perception
  • Motion masking
  • Motion parallax
  • Pursuit eye movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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