, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 41-50

The world from a cat’s perspective – statistics of natural videos

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The mammalian visual system is one of the most intensively investigated sensory systems. However, our knowledge of the typical input it is operating on is surprisingly limited. To address this issue, we seek to learn about the natural visual environment and the world as seen by a cat. With a CCD camera attached to their head, cats explore several outdoor environments and videos of natural stimuli are recorded from the animals’ perspective. The statistical analysis of these videos reveals several remarkable properties. First, we find an anisotropy of oriented contours with an enhanced occurrence of horizontal orientations, earlier described in the “oblique effect” as a predominance of the two cardinal orientations. Second, contrast is not elevated in the center of the images, suggesting different mechanisms of fixation point selection as compared to humans. Third, analyzing a sequence of images we find that the precise position of contours varies faster than their orientation. Finally, collinear contours prevail over parallel shifted contours, matching recent physiological and anatomical results. These findings demonstrate the rich structure of natural visual stimuli and its direct relation to extensively studied anatomical and physiological issues.