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Recovering stereo vision by squashing virtual bugs in a virtual reality environment


Stereopsis is the rich impression of three-dimensionality, based on binocular disparity-the differences between the two retinal images of the same world. However, a substantial proportion of the population is stereo-deficient, and relies mostly on monocular cues to judge the relative depth or distance of objects in the environment. Here we trained adults who were stereo blind or stereo-deficient owing to strabismus and/or amblyopia in a natural visuomotor task-a 'bug squashing' game-in a virtual reality environment. The subjects' task was to squash a virtual dichoptic bug on a slanted surface, by hitting it with a physical cylinder they held in their hand. The perceived surface slant was determined by monocular texture and stereoscopic cues, with these cues being either consistent or in conflict, allowing us to track the relative weighting of monocular versus stereoscopic cues as training in the task progressed. Following training most participants showed greater reliance on stereoscopic cues, reduced suppression and improved stereoacuity. Importantly, the training-induced changes in relative stereo weights were significant predictors of the improvements in stereoacuity. We conclude that some adults deprived of normal binocular vision and insensitive to the disparity information can, with appropriate experience, recover access to more reliable stereoscopic information.This article is part of the themed issue 'Vision in our three-dimensional world'.

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