A comparative analysis of vertical and horizontal fixation disparity in sentence reading

Jainta, S., Blythe, Hazel I., Nikolova, M., Jones, M.O. and Liversedge, Simon Paul orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8579-8546 (2015) A comparative analysis of vertical and horizontal fixation disparity in sentence reading. Vision Research, 110 (A). pp. 118-127. ISSN 0042-6989

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2015.03.008


Humans have two, frontally placed eyes and during reading oculomotor and sensory processes are needed to combine the two inputs into a unified percept of the text. Generally, slight vergence errors, i.e., fixation disparities, occur but do not cause double vision since disparate retinal inputs fall into Panum?s fusional area, that is, a range of disparity wherein sensory fusion of the two retinal images is achieved. In this study, we report benchmark data with respect to the mean magnitude and range of vertical compared to horizontal fixation disparities for natural reading. Our data clearly fit to an elliptical pattern of Panum?s fusional area that corresponds with theoretical estimates. Furthermore, when we examined disparity-driven vergence adjustments during fixations by comparing monocular with binocular reading conditions, we found that only horizontal fixation disparities increased significantly under conditions of monocular stimulation. Also, no significant vertical fine-tuning (vergence adjustment) was observed for vergence eye movements during reading fixations. Thus, horizontal and vertical fixation disparities and vergence adjustments during reading showed quite different characteristics, and this dissociation is directly related to the functional role of vergence adjustments: vertical fusion ? and vertical vergence ? subserve the maintenance of a single percept and stereopsis by keeping the eyes in register and allowing for horizontal fusional processes to successfully operate over a vertically aligned input. A reliable and stable vertical alignment is, thus, a pre-requisite over which horizontal fusional responses (and depth perception) can work most efficiently ? even in a task like reading.

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