1. When there is projected on the retina (man, monocularly) the shadow of a grid which forms a visual field in several distinct pieces (not including the fovea in the present tests), the ordinary properties of the flicker recognition contour (F vs. log I) as a function of the light-time cycle fraction (tL) can be markedly disturbed. In the present experiments flicker was produced by the rotation of a cylinder with opaque vertical stripes. In the absence of such a grid shadow the "cone" segments of the contours form a set in which Fmax. and the abscissa of inflection are opposite but rectilinear functions of tL, while the third parameter of the probability integral (σ'log I) remains constant. This is the case also with diverse other animals tested.

In the data with the grid, however, analysis shows that even for low values of tL (up to 0.50) there occurs an enhancement of the production of elements of neural effect, so that Fmax. rises rather than falls as ordinarily with increase of tL, although σ'log I stays constant and hence the total number of acting units is presumed not to change. This constitutes valid evidence for neural integration of effects due to the illumination of separated retinal patches. Beginning at tL = 0.75, and at 0.90, the slope of the "cone" curve is sharply increased, and the maximum F is far above its position in the absence of the grid. The decrease of σ'log I (the slope constant) signifies, in terms of other information, an increase in the number of acting cone units. The abscissa of inflection is also much lowered, relatively, whereas without the grid it increases as tL is made larger. These effects correspond subjectively to the fact that at the end-point flicker is most pronounced, on the "cone" curve, along the edges of the grid shadow where contrast is particularly evident with the longer light-times.

The "rod" portion of the F - log I contour is not specifically affected by the presence of the grid shadow. Its form is obtainable at tL = 0.90 free from the influence of summating "cone" contributions, because then almost no overlapping occurs. Analysis shows that when overlapping does occur a certain number of rod units are inhibited by concurrent cone excitation, and that the mean contribution of elements of neural action from each of the non-inhibited units is also reduced to an extent depending on the degree of overlap. The isolated "rod" curve at tL = 0.90 is quite accurately in the form of a probability integral. The data thus give a new experimental proof of the occurrence of two distinct but interlocking populations of visual effects, and experimentally justify the analytical procedures which have been used to separate them.

2. The changing form of the F - log I contour as a function of tL, produced in man when the illuminated field is divided into parts by a shadow pattern, is normally found with the bird Taeniopygia castenotis (Gould), the zebra finch. The retina has elements of one general structural type (cones), and the F - log I contour is a simplex symmetrical probability integral. The eye of this bird has a large, complex, and darkly pigmented pecten, which casts a foliated shadow on the retina. The change in form of the F - log I curve occurs with tL above 0,50, and at tL = 0.90 is quite extreme. It is more pronounced than the one that is secured in the human data with the particular grid we have used, but there is no doubt that it could be mimicked completely by the use of other grids. The increase of flicker acuity due to the pecten shadow is considerable, when the dark spaces are brief relative to the light. The evidence thus confirms the suggestion (Menner) drawn from comparative natural history that the visual significance of the avian pecten might be to increase the sensory effect of small moving images. It is theoretically important that (as in the human experiment) this may be brought about by an actual decrease of effective retinal area illuminated. It is also significant theoretically that despite the presence of shadows of pecten or of grid, and of the sensory influences thus introduced, the probability integral formulation remains effective.

This content is only available as a PDF.