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Markku Kilpeläinen, Nicole M. Putnam, Kavitha Ratnam, Austin Roorda; The retinal and perceived locus of fixation in the human visual system. Journal of Vision 2021;21(11):9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.11.9.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Due to the dramatic difference in spatial resolution between the central fovea and the surrounding retinal regions, accurate fixation on important objects is critical for humans. It is known that the preferred retinal location (PRL) for fixation of healthy human observers rarely coincides with the retinal location with the highest cone density. It is not currently known, however, whether the PRL is consistent within an observer or is subject to fluctuations and, moreover, whether observers’ subjective fixation location coincides with the PRL. We studied whether the PRL changes between days. We used an adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope to project a Maltese cross fixation target on an observer's retina and continuously imaged the exact retinal location of the target. We found that observers consistently use the same PRL across days, regardless of how much the PRL is displaced from the cone density peak location. We then showed observers small stimuli near the visual field location on which they fixated, and the observers judged whether or not the stimuli appeared in fixation. Observers’ precision in this task approached that of fixation itself. Observers based their judgment on both the visual scene coordinates and the retinal location of the stimuli. We conclude that the PRL in a normally functioning visual system is fixed, and observers use it as a reference point in judging stimulus locations.
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