, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 223-232

A fresh look at the temporal dynamics of binocular rivalry

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Human observers viewed dichoptic orthogonal sine-wave gratings and indicated when exclusive visibility occurred in either eye. Contrast was held constant in one eye and was increased or decreased in the other eye for a number of alternation cycles (continuous presentation) or for only the duration of a single period of exclusive visibility (synchronous presentation). The synchronous presentation condition allowed us to identify the differing effects of contrast during the suppressed and during the dominant periods. Mixed phases were recorded as distinct from suppressed and dominant phases, and new classifications of compound-dominant and compound-suppressed phases are defined. The results indicate that binocular rivalry responds to stimulus contrast in two ways.1) The duty-cycle of dominance and suppression is determined by the relative image contrast between the two eyes, with dominance of the higher contrast image being favored, and2) the overall rate of alternation is driven by monocular image contrast during the suppressed phase (increased monocular contrast increases the alternation rate) and to a lesser extent by monocular contrast during the dominant phase (increased monocular contrast decreases the rate). A model is developed to reflect these ideas. These results support a reciprocal inhibition oscillator as the underlying mechanism of binocular rivalry.

This work was supported in part by NSF grant BNS 8418731 and NIH grant EY 07760. The authors wish to thank Mary Bravo, Robert O'Shea, David Rose, David Westendorf and Heidi Wiesenfelder for their helpful comments on early versions of the manuscript