Eric Tsang, Bertram Shi
Binocular fusion takes place over a limited region smaller than one degree of visual angle (Panum's fusional area), which is on the order of the range of preferred disparities measured in populations of disparity-tuned neurons in the visual cortex. However, the actual range of binocular disparities encountered in natural scenes ranges over tens of degrees. This discrepancy suggests that there must be a mechanism for detecting whether the stimulus disparity is either inside or outside of the range of the preferred disparities in the population. Here, we present a statistical framework to derive feature in a population of V1 disparity neuron to determine the stimulus disparity within the preferred disparity range of the neural population. When optimized for natural images, it yields a feature that can be explained by the normalization which is a common model in V1 neurons. We further makes use of the feature to estimate the disparity in natural images. Our proposed model generates more correct estimates than coarse-to-fine multiple scales approaches and it can also identify regions with occlusion. The approach suggests another critical role for normalization in robust disparity estimation.