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Keywords:

  • visual masking;
  • backward masking;
  • visual processing;
  • schizophrenia;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • neurocognition

Abstract

Visual masking provides a highly informative means of assessing the earliest stages of visual processing. This procedure is frequently used in psychopathology research, most commonly in the study of schizophrenia. Deficits in visual masking tasks appear to reflect vulnerability factors in schizophrenia, as opposed to the symptoms of the illness. Visual masking procedures are typically conducted on a tachistoscope, which limits standardization across sites, as well as the number of variables that can be examined in a testing session. Although visual masking can be administered on a computer, most methods used so far have had poor temporal resolution and yielded a limited range of variables. We describe the development of a computerized visual masking battery. This battery includes a staircase procedure to establish an individual's threshold for target detection, and a relatively dense sampling of masking intervals. It includes both forward and backward masking trials for three different masking conditions that have been used previously in experimental psychopathology (target location, target identification with high-energy mask, and target identification with low-energy mask). Copyright © 2002 Whurr Publishers Ltd.