Contrast sensitivity for complex and random gratings

  • Outi I. Ukkonen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis studied the effect of (i) the number of grating components and (ii) parameter randomisation on root-mean-square (r.m.s.) contrast sensitivity and spatial integration.
The effectiveness of spatial integration without external spatial noise depended on the number of equally spaced orientation components in the sum of gratings. The critical area marking the saturation of spatial integration was found to decrease when the number of components increased from 1 to 5-6 but increased again at 8-16 components. The critical area behaved similarly as a function of the number of grating components when stimuli consisted of 3, 6 or 16 components with different orientations and/or phases embedded in spatial noise. Spatial integration seemed to depend on the global Fourier structure of the stimulus. Spatial integration was similar for sums of two vertical cosine or sine gratings with various Michelson contrasts in noise. The critical area for a grating sum was found to be a sum of logarithmic critical areas for the component gratings weighted by their relative Michelson contrasts.
The human visual system was modelled as a simple image processor where the visual stimuli is first low-pass filtered by the optical modulation transfer function of the human eye and secondly high-pass filtered, up to the spatial cut-off frequency determined by the lowest neural sampling density, by the neural modulation transfer function of the visual pathways. The internal noise is then added before signal interpretation occurs in the brain. The detection is mediated by a local spatially windowed matched filter. The model was extended to include complex stimuli and its applicability to the data was found to be successful.
The shape of spatial integration function was similar for non-randomised and randomised simple and complex gratings. However, orientation and/or phase randomised reduced r.m.s contrast sensitivity by a factor of 2. The effect of parameter randomisation on spatial integration was modelled under the assumption that human observers change the observer strategy from cross-correlation (i.e., a matched filter) to auto-correlation detection when uncertainty is introduced to the task. The model described the data accurately.
Date of AwardMay 1995
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJyrki Rovamo (Supervisor)


  • complex gratings
  • spatial integration
  • parameter randomisation
  • human image processing

Cite this