Depth generalization from stereo to motion parallax in the owl
Although many sources of three-dimensional information have been isolated and demonstrated to contribute independently to depth vision in animal studies, it is not clear whether these distinct cues are perceived to be perceptually equivalent. Such ability is observed in humans and would seem to be advantageous for animals as well in coping with the often co-varying (or ambiguous) information about the layout of physical space. We introduce the expression primary-depth-cue equivalence to refer to the ability to perceive mutually consistent information about differences in depth from either stereopsis or motion-parallax. We found that owls trained to detect relative depth as a perceptual category (objects versus holes) when specified by binocular disparity alone (stereopsis), immediately transferred this discrimination to novel stimuli where the equivalent depth categories were available only through differences in motion information produced by head movements (observer-produced motion-parallax). Motion-parallax discrimination did occur under monocular viewing conditions and reliable performance depended heavily on the amplitude of side-to-side head movements. The presence of primary-depth-cue equivalence in the visual system of the owl provides further conformation of the hypothesis that neural systems evolved to detect differences in either disparity or motion information are likely to share similar processing mechanisms.
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