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Justin M. Ales, Faraz Farzin, Bruno Rossion, Anthony M. Norcia; An objective method for measuring face detection thresholds using the sweep steady-state visual evoked response. Journal of Vision 2012;12(10):18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.10.18.
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We introduce a sensitive method for measuring face detection thresholds rapidly, objectively, and independently of low-level visual cues. The method is based on the swept parameter steady-state visual evoked potential (ssVEP), in which a stimulus is presented at a specific temporal frequency while parametrically varying (“sweeping”) the detectability of the stimulus. Here, the visibility of a face image was increased by progressive derandomization of the phase spectra of the image in a series of equally spaced steps. Alternations between face and fully randomized images at a constant rate (3/s) elicit a robust first harmonic response at 3 Hz specific to the structure of the face. High-density EEG was recorded from 10 human adult participants, who were asked to respond with a button-press as soon as they detected a face. The majority of participants produced an evoked response at the first harmonic (3 Hz) that emerged abruptly between 30% and 35% phase-coherence of the face, which was most prominent on right occipito-temporal sites. Thresholds for face detection were estimated reliably in single participants from 15 trials, or on each of the 15 individual face trials. The ssVEP-derived thresholds correlated with the concurrently measured perceptual face detection thresholds. This first application of the sweep VEP approach to high-level vision provides a sensitive and objective method that could be used to measure and compare visual perception thresholds for various object shapes and levels of categorization in different human populations, including infants and individuals with developmental delay.
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