Using Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to Study Dynamic Stereoscopic Depth Perception

Laura M. Ward, Gordon Morison, William A. Simpson, Anita J. Simmers, Uma Shahani (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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The parietal cortex has been widely implicated in the processing of depth perception by many neuroimaging studies, yet functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has been an under-utilised tool to examine the relationship of oxy- ([HbO]) and de-oxyhaemoglobin ([HbR]) in perception. Here we examine the haemodynamic response (HDR) to the processing of induced depth stimulation using dynamic random-dot-stereograms (RDS). We used fNIRS to measure the HDR associated with depth perception in healthy young adults (n = 13, mean age 24). Using a blocked design, absolute values of [HbO] and [HbR] were recorded across parieto-occipital and occipital cortices, in response to dynamic RDS. Control and test images were identical except for the horizontal shift in pixels in the RDS that resulted in binocular disparity and induced the percept of a 3D sine wave that ‘popped out’ of the test stimulus. The control stimulus had zero disparity and induced a ‘flat’ percept. All participants had stereoacuity within normal clinical limits and successfully perceived the depth in the dynamic RDS. Results showed a significant effect of this complex visual stimulation in the right parieto-occipital cortex (p < 0.01, η2 = 0.54). The test stimulus elicited a significant increase in [HbO] during depth perception compared to the control image (p < 0.001, 99.99 % CI [0.008–0.294]). The similarity between the two stimuli may have resulted in the HDR of the occipital cortex showing no significant increase or decrease of cerebral oxygenation levels during depth stimulation. Cerebral oxygenation measures of [HbO] confirmed the strong association of the right parieto-occipital cortex with processing depth perception. Our study demonstrates the validity of fNIRS to investigate [HbO] and [HbR] during high-level visual processing of complex stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-523
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number4
Early online date22 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Binocular disparity
  • Depth perception
  • fNIRS
  • Haemodynamic response
  • Random dot stereogram

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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