Impact of vision research

Vision science has always been at the forefront of basic psychological and neuroscientific research, its greatest successes coming from its characterisation of the visual mechanisms that underpin performance, and perception. For example, strong adaptation effects in the visual cortex give rise to numerous after-effects, referred to by some as ‘the psychologist’s microelectrode’. According to the international benchmarking review of UK psychology, UK-based research on visual perception is rated as among the strongest in the world.

Vision science has contributed greatly to engineering—especially in the field of image processing. Most notable contributions include halftoning algorithms for the printing industry, colour correction for digital cameras and digital displays, and methods of image compression. The ongoing cooperation between biological and computer vision research communities was enhanced through the EPSRC-funded Visual Image Interpretation in Humans and Machines (VIIHM) network. The AVA also has close links with the British Machine Vision Association (BMVA) with whom we occasionally hold joint meetings in order to foster new and strengthen existing interdisciplinary links.

Rigorous psychophysical enquiry underpins several clinical aspects of visual perception. For example, amblyopia is a developmental condition in which optical factors induce cortical abnormalities during a critical period resulting in compromises to contrast vision and binocular vision. The problems are known to have a neural basis since they remain after the optical factors are corrected. Recent psychophysical work has shown that contrary to earlier beliefs, the relevant cortical binocular mechanisms remain intact and that treatment might thus be possible. Several research groups are pursuing this idea with evidence of success.


As an organisation, the AVA is invited to nominate panel members and assessors for the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which is the official system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.


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