Yukai Zhao, Luis Andres Lesmes, and Zhong-Lin Lu


Perceptual sensitivity is usually estimated over trials and time intervals, which results in imprecise and biased estimates when it changes rapidly over time. We develop a novel procedure, the quick Change-Detection (qCD) method, to accurately, precisely, and efficiently assess the trial-by-trial time course of perceptual sensitivity change. Based on Bayesian adaptive testing, qCD selects the optimal stimulus, and updates, trial by trial, a joint probability distribution of the parameters that quantify perceptual sensitivity change over time. We demonstrate the utility of the method in measuring the time course of dark adaptation. Simulations showed that the accuracy and precision of the estimated dark adaptation curve after one qCD run (root mean squared error (RMSE): 0.002; the half width of the 68.2% credible interval (HWCI): 0.016; standard deviation (SD): 0.020; all in log10 units) was higher than those obtained by ten runs of the quick Forced-Choice (qFC) procedure (RMSE: 0.020; HWCI: 0.032; SD: 0.031) and ten runs of a weighted up-down staircase procedure (RMSE: 0.026; SD: 0.031). Further, the dark adaptation curve obtained from one qCD run in a psychophysics experiment was highly consistent with the average of four qFC runs (RMSE = 0.076 log10 units). Overall, qCD provides a procedure to characterize the detailed time course of perceptual sensitivity change in both basic research and clinical applications.