Previously we reported that failures of compensatory eye movements led to appreciable binocular retinal image motion during head rotation. Subjectively, the visual world appeared clear, fused, and stable under these conditions. The present experiments examined these impressions psychophysically. The spatial modulation transfer function of subjects with known retinal image motion was measured during head rotation. We found that contrast sensitivity was reduced for gratings over 6 cycles/degree and was increased for lower spatial frequencies. Our results, when compared with Kelly’s [ J. Opt. Soc. Am. 69, 1340– 1349 ( 1979)] measurements made with artificially moving stabilized gratings, show that natural retinal image motion is less harmful to contrast sensitivity at high spatial frequencies and more beneficial at low spatial frequencies. Furthermore, we had previously found that natural retinal image motion was different in each eye during head movement but no diplopia was noticed. We confirmed this subjective impression by measuring forced-choice stereoacuity thresholds concurrent with binocular head and eye recordings. Stereoacuity was not disturbed by large fixation disparities or high vergence velocities. Recordings also were made while a fused Julesz stereogram was viewed during attempts to break fusion with violent head movements. Fusion could not be broken. Stereograms turned on during violent head movement fused rapidly. We conclude that vision is better with natural retinal image motion than expected from experiments done with stabilized heads.
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