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The sequential processing of visual motion in the human electroretinogram and visual evoked potential



Mechanisms of motion vision in the human have been studied extensively by psychophysical methods but less frequently by electrophysiological techniques. It is the purpose of the present investigation to study electrical potentials of the eye (electroretinogram, ERG) and of the brain (visual evoked potential, VEP) in response to moving regular square-wave stripe patterns spanning a wide range of contrasts, spatial frequencies, and speeds. The results show that ERG amplitudes increase linearly with contrast while VEPs, in agreement with the literature, show an amplitude saturation at low contrast. Furthermore, retinal responses oscillate with the fundamental temporal stimulus frequency of the moving pattern while brain responses do not. In both the retina and the brain, the response amplitudes are tuned to certain speeds which is in agreement with the nonlinear correlation-type motion detector. Along the ascending slopes (which means increasing amplitudes) of the tuning functions, the ERG curves overlap at all spatial frequencies if plotted as a function of temporal stimulation frequency. The ascending slopes of the tuning functions of the VEP overlap if plotted as a function of speed. The descending slopes (which means decreasing amplitudes) of the tuning functions show little (ERG) or no (VEP) overlap and the waveforms at high speeds approach pattern-offset-onset responses. These observations suggest that in the retina motion processing along the ascending slopes of the tuning curves takes place by coding the temporal stimulation frequency which depends on the spatial frequency of the moving pattern. In the brain, however, motion processing is by speed independent of spatial frequency. Simple calculations show that the VEP information is decoded from the ERG signal into a speed signal.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mathias Korth, Department of Ophthalmology, University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schwabachanlage 6, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany. E-mail:
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Visual Neuroscience
  • ISSN: 0952-5238
  • EISSN: 1469-8714
  • URL: /core/journals/visual-neuroscience
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