Arousal has long been known to influence behavior and serves as an underlying component of cognition and consciousness. However, the consequences of hyper-arousal for visual perception remain unclear. The present study evaluates the impact of hyper-arousal on two aspects of visual sensitivity: visual stereoacuity and contrast thresholds. Sixty-eight participants participated in two experiments. Thirty-four participants were randomly divided into two groups in each experiment: Arousal Stimulation or Sham Control. The Arousal Stimulation group underwent a 50-second cold pressor stimulation (immersing the foot in 0–2° C water), a technique known to increase arousal. In contrast, the Sham Control group immersed their foot in room temperature water. Stereoacuity thresholds (Experiment 1) and contrast thresholds (Experiment 2) were measured before and after stimulation. The Arousal Stimulation groups demonstrated significantly lower stereoacuity and contrast thresholds following cold pressor stimulation, whereas the Sham Control groups showed no difference in thresholds. These results provide the first evidence that hyper-arousal from sensory stimulation can lower visual thresholds. Hyper-arousal's ability to decrease visual thresholds has important implications for survival, sports, and everyday life.
Woods, A. J., Philbeck, J. W. & Wirtz, P. (2013). Hyper-arousal decreases human visual thresholds. PLoS One, 8 (4), 1-8.