Event Abstract

Pupil dilation and visual object recognition

  • 1 Center for Cognitive and Neural Studies, Romanian Institute of Science and Technology, Romania

Pupil dilation (PD) has been shown to vary as a function of cognitive workload (Andreassi, 2000), exploration/exploitation of reward sources (Gilzenrat et al., 2010), perceptual switches in the presence of bistable stimuli (Einhauser et al., 2008), or the timing of a decision (Einhauser et al., 2010). However, due to limited research (but see Privitera et al. 2010 for an exception) it is not clear whether PD might be informative as a physiological correlate of visual object recognition. Here we attempt to answer this question. Stimuli consisted of deformed lattices of dots created by pulling lattice elements towards salient regions of 50 target images (representing animals, plants, fruits or inanimate objects). Seven levels of visibility were created by varying the amount of lattice deformation. While recognition of natural scenes is typically fast, our method generates stimuli that are more difficult to recognize, rendering them especially feasible for use in studies of PD (a slow signal). Participants (10 young adults) were presented with stimuli of ascending or descending visibility and asked to report – via button press – whether the dot lattice contained no object (“Nothing”), whether they perceived something but were unsure what (“Uncertain”), or whether they recognized the object (“Seen”). The button press was followed by a verbal response to verify correct recognition. Results show that, when compared to “Nothing” or “Uncertain”, “Seen” (and correct) responses were associated with larger PDs around threshold visibility level in the ascending condition. This effect was diminished in the descending condition. Our results suggest that a complex interaction between stimulus visibility and presentation order is linked to PD in the context of object recognition. Funding: Supported by CNCS-UEFISCDI (project number PN II TE-11/2010, contract nr. 23/28.07.2010) and “Max Planck–Coneural Partner Group”.

Keywords: Perception, pupil dilation

Conference: XI International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON XI), Palma, Mallorca, Spain, 25 Sep - 29 Sep, 2011.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Poster Sessions: Neurophysiology of Sensation and Perception

Citation: Tincas I, Moca VV and Muresan RC (2011). Pupil dilation and visual object recognition. Conference Abstract: XI International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON XI). doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2011.207.00473

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Received: 25 Nov 2011; Published Online: 28 Nov 2011.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ioana Tincas, Center for Cognitive and Neural Studies, Romanian Institute of Science and Technology, Cluj, Romania, tincas@coneural.org