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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Foveal Crowding Resolved

  • Author(s): Coates, DR
  • Levi, DM
  • Touch, P
  • Sabesan, R
  • et al.

© 2018 The Author(s). Crowding is the substantial interference of neighboring items on target identification. Crowding with letter stimuli has been studied primarily in the visual periphery, with conflicting results for foveal stimuli. While a cortical locus for peripheral crowding is well established (with a large spatial extent up to half of the target eccentricity), disentangling the contributing factors in the fovea is more challenging due to optical limitations. Here, we used adaptive optics (AO) to overcome ocular aberrations and employed high-resolution stimuli to precisely characterize foveal lateral interactions with high-contrast letters flanked by letters. Crowding was present, with a maximal edge-to-edge interference zone of 0.75-1.3 minutes at typical unflanked performance levels. In agreement with earlier foveal contour interaction studies, performance was non-monotonic, revealing a recovery effect with proximal flankers. Modeling revealed that the deleterious effects of flankers can be described by a single function across stimulus sizes when the degradation is expressed as a reduction in sensitivity (expressed in Z-score units). The recovery, however, did not follow this pattern, likely reflecting a separate mechanism. Additional analysis reconciles multiple results from the literature, including the observed scale invariance of center-to-center spacing, as well as the size independence of edge-to-edge spacing.

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