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Distinct MEG correlates of conscious experience, perceptual reversals and stabilization during binocular rivalry

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  • Kristian Sandberg
  • Gareth Robert Barnes, Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom
  • Bahador Bahrami, University College London, Denmark
  • Ryota Kanai, University College London, United Kingdom
  • Morten Overgaard
  • Geraint Rees, University College London, United Kingdom

During binocular rivalry, visual perception alternates spontaneously between two different monocular images. Such perceptual reversals are slowed or halted if stimuli are presented intermittently with inter-stimulus intervals larger than ~. 400. ms - a phenomenon called stabilization. Often, the neural correlates of reversal and stabilization are studied separately, and both phenomena in turn are studied separately from the neural correlates of conscious perception. To distinguish the neural correlates of perceptual content, stabilization and reversal, we recorded MEG signals associated with each in the same group of healthy humans observing repeated trials of intermittent presentation of a dichoptic stimulus. Perceptual content correlated mainly with modulation of stimulus-specific activity in occipital/temporal areas 150-270. ms after stimulus onset, possibly reflecting inhibition of the neural populations representing the suppressed image. Stability of perception reflected a gradual build-up of this modulation across at least 10 trials and was also, to some extent, associated with parietal activity 40-90. ms and 220-270. ms after stimulus onset. Perceptual reversals, in contrast, were associated with parietal (150-270. ms) and temporal (150-210. ms) activity on the trial before the reversal and a gradual change in perception-specific activity in occipital (150-270. ms) and temporal (220-420. ms) areas across at least 10 trials leading up to a reversal. Mechanistically, these findings suggest that stability of perception during rivalry is maintained by modulation of activity related to the two monocular images, and gradual adaptation of neuronal populations leads to instability that is eventually resolved by signals from parietal and late sensory cortices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-175
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2014

    Research areas

  • Binocular rivalry, Consciousness, Magnetoencephalography, MEG, Perceptual reversals, Stabilization

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