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Cortical distance unifies the extent of parafoveal contour interactions


It is well known that crowding, the disruptive influence of flanking items on identification of targets, is the primary limiting factor to object identification in the periphery, while limits in the fovea are more determined by the ability to resolve individual items. Whether this is a dichotomous or merely a quantitative difference, and the transition between these two regimes, has remained unexplained. Here, using an adaptive optics system for optimal control of optical and stimulus factors, we measured threshold acuity for identification of Tumbling Es flanked by bars at a variety of flanker spacings and eight eccentricities in the parafovea. Thresholds at each eccentricity were influenced by resolution, contour interaction, and a saturating pedestal effect. When target-flanker spacing was plotted in terms of cortical distance, a single canonical clipped-line fit unified the resultant curves. The critical spacing for letters flanked by bars was found to be 1.3 to 1.5 cortical millimeters, corresponding to approximately 0.1*E outside the fovea.

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