Noise improves visual motion discrimination via a stochastic resonance-like phenomenon

Mario Treviño, Braniff De La Torre-Valdovinos, Elias Manjarrez, Mikhail Lebedev, Alessandro Giuliani, Matjaž Perc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


The stochastic resonance (SR) is a phenomenon in which adding a moderate amount of noise can improve the signal-to-noise ratio and performance of non-linear systems. SR occurs in all sensory modalities including the visual system in which noise can enhance contrast detection sensitivity and the perception of ambiguous figures embedded in static scenes. Here, we explored how adding background white pixel-noise to a random dot motion (RDM) stimulus produced changes in visual motion discrimination in healthy human adults. We found that, although the average reaction times (RTs) remained constant, an intermediate level of noise improved the subjects’ ability to discriminate motion direction in the RDM task. The psychophysical responses followed an inverted U-like function of the input noise, whereas the incorrect responses with short RTs did not exhibit such modulation by external noise. Moreover, by applying stimulus and noisy signals to different eyes, we found that the SR phenomenon occurred presumably in the primary visual cortex, where these two signals first converge. Our results suggest that a SR-like phenomenon mediates the improvement of visual motion perception in the RDM task.

Original languageEnglish
Article number572
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberNOV2016
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision making
  • Discrimination
  • Humans
  • Stochastic resonance
  • Visual cortex
  • Visual perception


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