The contribution of nonrigid motion and shape information to object perception in pigeons and humans.
In the primate visual system, local motion signals are pooled to create a global motion percept. Like primates, many birds are highly dependent on vision for their survival, yet relatively little is known about motion perception in birds. We used random-dot stimuli to investigate pigeons’ ability to detect complex motion (radial, rotation, and spiral) compared to humans. Our human participants had a significantly lower threshold for rotational and radial motion when compared to spiral motion. The data from the pigeons, however, showed that the pigeons were most sensitive to rotational motion and least sensitive to radial motion, while sensitivity for spiral motion was intermediate. We followed up the pigeon results with an investigation of the effect of display aperture shape for rotational motion and velocity gradient for radial motion. We found no effect of shape of the aperture on thresholds, but did observe that radial motion containing accelerating dots improved thresholds. However, this improvement did not reach the thresholds levels observed for rotational motion. In sum, our experiments demonstrate that the pooling mechanism in the pigeon motion system is most efficient for rotation.