Pupillary responses to differences in luminance, color and set size

Julia Oster, Jeff Huang, Brian J. White, Ralph Radach, Laurent Itti, Douglas P. Munoz, Chin An Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The pupil responds to a salient stimulus appearing in the environment, in addition to its modulation by global luminance. These pupillary responses can be evoked by visual or auditory stimuli, scaled with stimulus salience, and enhanced by multisensory presentation. In addition, pupil size is modulated by various visual stimulus attributes, such as color, area, and motion. However, research that concurrently examines the influence of different factors on pupillary responses is limited. To explore how presentation of multiple visual stimuli influences human pupillary responses, we presented arrays of visual stimuli and systematically varied their luminance, color, and set size. Saliency level, computed by the saliency model, systematically changed with set size across all conditions, with higher saliency levels in larger set sizes. Pupillary constriction responses were evoked by the appearance of visual stimuli, with larger pupillary responses observed in larger set size. These effects were pronounced even though the global luminance level was unchanged using isoluminant chromatic stimuli. Furthermore, larger pupillary constriction responses were obtained in the blue, compared to other color conditions. Together, we argue that both cortical and subcortical areas contribute to the observed pupillary constriction modulated by set size and color.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1885
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Orienting
  • Pupil light reflex
  • Pupillometry
  • Saliency
  • Superior colliculus
  • V1


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