From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
Peripheral vision is a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze. There is a broad set of non-central points in the field of view that is included in the notion of peripheral vision. "Far peripheral" vision exists at the edges of the field of view, "mid-peripheral" vision exists in the middle of the field of view, and "near-peripheral", sometimes referred to as "para-central" vision, exists adjacent to the center of gaze.
The inner boundaries of peripheral vision can be defined in any of several ways depending on the context. In common usage or everyday language the term "peripheral vision" is commonly used to refer to what in technical usage would be called "far peripheral vision." This is vision outside of the range of stereoscopic vision. It can be conceived as bounded at the center by a circle 60° in radius or 120° in diameter, centered around the fixation point, i.e., the point at which one's gaze is directed. In common usage, peripheral vision may also refer to the area technically known as "mid peripheral vision," defined by a circle 30° in radius or 60° in diameter. In vision-related fields such as physiology, ophthalmology, or optometry, the inner boundaries of peripheral vision are defined more narrowly in terms of one of several anatomical regions of the central retina, generally the fovea.
The fovea is a cone-shaped depression in the central retina measuring 1.5 mm in diameter, corresponding to 5° of the field of vision. The outer boundaries of the fovea are visible under a microscope, or with microscopic imaging technology such as OCT or microscopic MRI. When viewed through the pupil, as in an eye exam (using ophthalmoscope or retinal photography) only the central portion of the fovea is visible. Anatomists refer to this as the clinical fovea, and say that it corresponds to the anatomical foveola, a structure with a diameter of 0.35 mm corresponding to 1 degree of the field of vision. In clinical usage the central part of the fovea is typically referred to simply as the fovea.
In terms of visual acuity, "foveal vision" may be defined as the part of the retina in which visual acuity is at least 20/20 (6/3 metric). This corresponds to the foveal avascular zone (FAZ) with a diameter of 0.5 mm representing 1.5° of the visual field. Although often idealized as perfect circles, the central structures of the retina tend to be irregular ovals. Thus, foveal vision may also be defined as the central 1.5-2° of the field of vision. Vision within the fovea is generally called central vision, while vision outside of the fovea is called peripheral vision.
A ring-shaped region surrounding the fovea, known as the parafovea, is sometimes taken to represent an intermediate form of vision called paracentral vision. The parafovea has an outer diameter of 2.5 mm representing 8° of the field of vision. The macula, a region of the retina defined as having at least two layers of ganglia (bundles of nerves and neurons) is sometimes taken as defining the boundaries of central vs. peripheral vision. The macula has a diameter of 5.5 mm and corresponds to 18° of the field of vision. When viewed from the pupil, as in an eye example, only the central portion of the macula is visible. Known to anatomists as the clinical macula (and in clinical setting as simply the macula) this inner region is thought to correspond to the anatomical fovea.
The dividing line between near and mid peripheral vision at 30° radius is based on several features of visual performance. Visual acuity declines by about 50% every 2.5° from the center up to 30°, at which point the decline in visual acuity declines more steeply. Color perception is strong at 20° but weak at 40° . 30° is thus taken as the dividing line between adequate and poor color perception. In dark-adapted vision, light sensitivity corresponds to rod density, which peaks just at 18° . From 18° towards the center rod density declines rapidly. From 18° away from the center, rod density declines more gradually, in a curve with distinct inflection points resulting in two humps. The outer edge of the second hump is at about 30° , and corresponds to the outer edge of good night vision.
The outer boundaries of peripheral vision correspond to the boundaries of the visual field as a whole. For a single eye, the extent of the visual field can be defined in terms of four angles, each measured from the fixation point, i.e., the point at which one's gaze is directed. These angles, representing four cardinal directions, are 60° superior (up), 60° nasal (towards the nose), 70-75° inferior (down), and 100-110° temporal (away from the nose and towards the temple).   For both eyes the combined visual field is 130-135° vertical  and 200-220° horizontal. 
Peripheral vision is weak in humans, especially at distinguishing color and shape. This is because receptor cells on the retina are greater at the center and lowest at the edges (see visual system for an explanation of these concepts). In addition, there are two types of receptor cells, rod cells and cone cells; rod cells are unable to distinguish color and are predominant at the periphery, while cone cells are concentrated mostly in the center of the retina, the fovea.
Central vision is relatively weak at night or in the dark, when the lack of color cues and lighting makes cone cells far less useful. Rod cells, which are concentrated further away from the retina, operate better than cone cells in low light. This makes peripheral vision useful for seeing movement at night. In fact, pilots are taught to use peripheral vision to scan for aircraft at night.
The distinctions between foveal (sometimes also called central) and peripheral vision are reflected in subtle physiological and anatomical differences in the visual cortex. Different visual areas contribute to the processing of visual information coming from different parts of the visual field, and a complex of visual areas located along the banks of the interhemispheric fissure (a deep groove that separates the two brain hemispheres) has been linked to peripheral vision. It has been suggested that these areas are important for fast reactions to visual stimuli in the periphery, and monitoring body position relative to gravity.
Peripheral vision can be practiced; for example, jugglers that regularly locate and catch objects in their peripheral vision have improved abilities. Jugglers focus on a defined point in mid-air, so almost all of the information necessary for successful catches is perceived in the near-peripheral region.
The main functions of peripheral vision are:
The rim of the retina contains a large concentration of cone cells. The retina extends farthest in the superior-nasal 45° quadrant (in the direction from the pupil to the bridge of the nose) with the greatest extent of the visual field in the opposite direction, the inferior temporal 45° quadrant (from the pupil of either eye towards the bottom of the nearest ear). Vision at this extreme part of the visual field is thought to be possibly concerned with threat detection, measuring optical flow, color constancy, or circadian rhythm.  
With our head and eyes steady, our normal binocular vision covers a visual field of about 200 to 220 degrees of visual angle.