, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 85-118

Searching for the Switch: Neural Bases for Perceptual Rivalry Alternations

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Abstract

A midbrain neural basis for the perceptualoscillations of binocular rivalry is suggestedon the basis of fMRI studies of rivalry andinferences from the properties of rivalry thatcannot be explained from the known propertiesof primary visual cortical (V1) neurons. Therivalry switch is proposed to activatehomologous areas of each cerebral hemispherealternately, by means of a bistable oscillatorcircuit that straddles the midline of theventral tegmentum. This bistable oscillatoroperates at the same slow rate that ischaracteristic of perceptual rivalryalternations. Whilst attempting to divert thepresent preoccupation with cortical mechanismsfor rivalry, the new proposal integrates manycortical areas, in keeping with recent evidencethat binocular rivalry involves widespreadareas of the hemispheres. By linking rivalry tointerhemispheric switching mechanisms in thisway, the new proposal for the switch makes theprediction that binocular rivalry will besubject to high level influences such as moodand motivation. These predictions are beingfulfilled, with rivalry playing an increasingrole in the diagnosis and understanding if mooddisorders, schizophrenia and other psychiatricconditions.