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Melanopic stimulation does not alter psychophysical threshold sensitivity for luminance flicker

Vincent, Joris; Haggerty, Edda B.; Brainard, David H.; Aguirre, Geoffrey K.

In addition to the rod and cone photoreceptors the retina contains intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). These cells express the photopigment melanopsin and are known to be involved in reflexive visual functions such as pupil response and photo-entrainment of the circadian rhythm. It is possible that the ipRGCs contribute to conscious visual perception, either by providing an independent signal to the geniculo-striate pathway, or by interacting with and thus modifying signals arising from “classical” retinal ganglion cells that combine and contrast cone input. Here, we tested for the existence of an interaction by asking if a 350% change in melanopsin stimulation alters psychophysical sensitivity for the detection of luminance flicker. In Experiment 1, we tested for a change in the threshold for detecting luminance flicker in three participants after they adapted to backgrounds with different degrees of tonic melanopsin stimulation. In Experiments 2 and 3, this test was repeated, but now for luminance flicker presented on a transient pedestal of melanopsin stimulation. Across the three experiments, no effect of melanopsin stimulation upon threshold flicker sensitivity was found. Our results suggest that even large changes in melanopsin stimulation do not affect near-threshold, cone-mediated visual perception.
Published in: Scientific Reports, 10.1038/s41598-021-99684-0, Springer Nature