A specialization for vertical disparity discontinuities.
Because our eyes are set apart horizontally in our head, most disparities between the retinal images are horizontal. However, vertical disparities also occur, and can influence depth perception. The classic example is Ogle's induced effect (K. N. Ogle, 1938), in which applying a uniform vertical magnification to one eye's image produces the illusion that the surface has been rotated around a vertical axis. This is thought to be because uniform vertical magnifications can be produced in natural viewing when the eyes are in eccentric gaze (J. E. Mayhew, 1982; J. E. Mayhew & H. C. Longuet-Higgins, 1982). Thus, vertical magnification is taken by the visual system as indicating that the viewed surface is slanted away from the line of sight. Here, we demonstrate that the induced effect becomes stronger when the sign of the magnification alternates across the visual field. That is, as one moves horizontally across the screen, the left eye's image is alternately stretched and squashed vertically relative to the right eye's image, producing the illusion of a surface folded into triangular corrugations (H. Kaneko & I. P. Howard, 1997). For most subjects, slant judgments in this folded surface have lower thresholds and greater reliability than the classic induced effect, where magnification is applied uniformly across the whole visual field. This is remarkable, given that the disparity pattern of the classic induced effect can be produced by real surfaces with the eyes in eccentric gaze, whereas it is not clear that stripes of alternating vertical disparity could be produced by any physically realizable situation. The analogous improvement for alternating horizontal magnification is attributed to neuronal mechanisms which detect the jumps in horizontal disparity that occur at object boundaries. Our results suggest that a similar, previously unreported system may exist for vertical disparity. Jumps in vertical disparity do occur at object boundaries, and we suggest that our surprising results may reflect the activation of neuronal mechanisms designed to detect these.