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Achieving precise display timing in visual neuroscience experiments
In experimental visual neuroscience brief presentations of visual stimuli are often required. Accurate knowledge of the durations of visual stimuli and their signal shapes is important in psychophysical experiments with humans and in neuronal recordings with animals. In this study we measure and analyze the changes in luminance of visual stimuli on standard computer monitors. Signal properties of the two most frequently used monitor technologies, cathode ray tube (CRT) and liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors, are compared, and the effects of the signal shapes on the stated durations of visual stimuli are analyzed. The fundamental differences between CRT and LCD signals require different methods for the specification of durations, especially for brief stimulus presentations. In addition, stimulus durations on LCD monitors vary over different monitor models and are not even homogeneous with respect to different luminance levels on a single monitor. The use of LCD technology for brief stimulus presentation requires extensive display measurements prior to the experiment.