Assessment of contrast sensitivity in kittens after the critical developmental period

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Spatial contrast sensitivity was measured in kittens aged 6, 9, and 12 months and in adult cats. Cats had to open one of two small windows, which had a photograph of a grid, in order to obtain food reinforcement. The nonreinforced stimulus was a photograph of a uniform field of the same mean luminance. Visual acuity was constant in kittens aged 6 to 12 months. However, six-month-old kittens had low contrast sensitivity at low spatial frequencies (<0.6 cycles/degree). At the age of nine months, contrast sensitivity over this range increased, though the level seen in adult cats was reached only at the age of 12 months. It is suggested that the increase in contrast sensitivity occurring after the critical developmental period in kittens reflects maturation of higher-order cortical fields involved in the process of recognition.

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