Asymmetries in visual acuity around the visual field

Antoine Barbot, Shutian Xue, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human vision is heterogeneous around the visual field. At a fixed eccentricity, performance is better along the horizontal than the vertical meridian and along the lower than the upper vertical meridian. These asymmetric patterns, termed performance fields, have been found in numerous visual tasks, including those mediated by contrast sensitivity and spatial resolution. However, it is unknown whether spatial resolution asymmetries are confined to the cardinal meridians or whether and how far they extend into the upper and lower hemifields. Here, we measured visual acuity at isoeccentric peripheral locations (10 deg eccentricity), ± every 15° of polar angle. On each trial, observers judged the orientation ( 45°) of one of four equidistant, suprathreshold grating stimuli varying in spatial frequency (SF). On each block, we measured performance as a function of stimulus SF at 4 of 24 isoeccentric locations. We estimated the 75%-correct SF threshold, SF cutoff point (i.e., chance-level), and slope of the psychometric function for each location. We found higher SF estimates (i.e., better acuity) for the horizontal than the vertical meridian and for the lower than the upper vertical meridian. These asymmetries were most pronounced at the cardinal meridians and decreased gradually as the angular distance from the vertical meridian increased. This gradual change in acuity with polar angle reflected a shift of the psychometric function without changes in slope. The same pattern was found under binocular and monocular viewing conditions. These findings advance our understanding of visual processing around the visual field and help constrain models of visual perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • isoeccentricity
  • performance fields
  • spatial frequency
  • spatial vision
  • visual acuity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Fields/physiology
  • Young Adult
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Contrast Sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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