One of the greatest challenges in visual neuroscience is that of linking neural activity with perceptual experience. In the case of binocular depth perception, important insights have been achieved through comparing neural responses and the perception of depth, for carefully selected stimuli. One of the most important types of stimulus that has been used here is the anti-correlated random dot stereogram (ACRDS). In these stimuli, the contrast polarity of one half of a stereoscopic image is reversed. While neurons in cortical area V1 respond reliably to the binocular disparities in ACRDS, they do not create a sensation of depth. This discrepancy has been used to argue that depth perception must rely on neural activity elsewhere in the brain. Currently, the psychophysical results on which this argument rests are not clear-cut. While it is generally assumed that ACRDS do not support the perception of depth, some studies have reported that some people, some of the time, perceive depth in some types of these stimuli. Given the importance of these results for understanding the neural correlates of stereopsis, we studied depth perception in ACRDS using a large number of observers, in order to provide an unambiguous conclusion about the extent to which these stimuli support the perception of depth. We presented observers with random dot stereograms in which correlated dots were presented in a surrounding annulus and correlated or anti-correlated dots were presented in a central circular region. While observers could reliably report the depth of the central region for correlated stimuli, we found no evidence for depth perception in static or dynamic anti-correlated stimuli. Confidence ratings for stereoscopic perception were uniformly low for anti-correlated stimuli, but showed normal variation with disparity for correlated stimuli. These results establish that the inability of observers to perceive depth in ACRDS is a robust phenomenon.
Hibbard, P. B., Scott-Brown, K. C., Haigh, E. C., & Adrain, M. (2014). Depth perception not found in human observers for static or dynamic anti-correlated random dot stereograms. PLoS One, 9(1), [ e84087]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0084087