Ultrahigh temporal resolution of visual presentation using gaming monitors and G-Sync
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Vision unfolds as an intricate pattern of information processing over time. Studying vision and visual cognition therefore requires precise manipulations of the timing of visual stimulus presentation. Although standard computer display technologies offer great accuracy and precision of visual presentation, their temporal resolution is limited. This limitation stems from the fact that the presentation of rendered stimuli has to wait until the next refresh of the computer screen. We present a novel method for presenting visual stimuli with ultrahigh temporal resolution (<1 ms) on newly available gaming monitors. The method capitalizes on the G-Sync technology, which allows for presenting stimuli as soon as they have been rendered by the computer’s graphics card, without having to wait for the next screen refresh. We provide software implementations in the three programming languages C++, Python (using PsychoPy2), and Matlab (using Psychtoolbox3). For all implementations, we confirmed the ultrahigh temporal resolution of visual presentation with external measurements by using a photodiode. Moreover, a psychophysical experiment revealed that the ultrahigh temporal resolution impacts on human visual performance. Specifically, observers’ object recognition performance improved over fine-grained increases of object presentation duration in a theoretically predicted way. Taken together, the present study shows that the G-Sync-based presentation method enables researchers to investigate visual processes whose data patterns were concealed by the low temporal resolution of previous technologies. Therefore, this new presentation method may be a valuable tool for experimental psychologists and neuroscientists studying vision and its temporal characteristics.
KeywordsDisplay Screen CRT replacement Vision Visual cognition Psychophysics
This research was supported by the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology “CITEC” (EXC 277) at Bielefeld University, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). We thank Anders Petersen for very helpful discussions, and Signe Vangkilde for making available visual pattern masks. C.H.P., R.M.F., C.B., W.X.S., and M.B. designed the research. C.B. and M.B. developed the C++ computer programs. C.H.P. developed the Python and Matlab computer programs. U.S. designed the photodiode circuit for the monitor measurements. C.H.P. performed the monitor measurements and analyzed the data. C.B. programmed the psychophysical experiment. R.M.F. collected the data of the psychophysical experiment, and C.H.P. analyzed these data. C.H.P. and M.B. wrote the manuscript. C.H.P., R.M.F., U.S., W.X.S., and M.B. read and commented on the manuscript.
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