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Neuronal activity in human primary visual cortex correlates with perception during binocular rivalry

Abstract

During binocular rivalry, two incompatible monocular images compete for perceptual dominance, with one pattern temporarily suppressed from conscious awareness. We measured fMRI signals in early visual cortex while subjects viewed rival dichoptic images of two different contrasts; the contrast difference served as a 'tag' for the neuronal representations of the two monocular images. Activity in primary visual cortex (V1) increased when subjects perceived the higher contrast pattern and decreased when subjects perceived the lower contrast pattern. These fluctuations in V1 activity during rivalry were about 55% as large as those evoked by alternately presenting the two monocular images without rivalry. The rivalry-related fluctuations in V1 activity were roughly equal to those observed in other visual areas (V2, V3, V3a and V4v). These results challenge the view that the neuronal mechanisms responsible for binocular rivalry occur primarily in later visual areas.

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Figure 1: Experimental design.
Figure 2: V1 activity correlates with the percept.
Figure 3: Comparison of cortical activity during rivalry and physical alternation.
Figure 4: Example of averaging across individual dominance epochs.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a grant from the National Eye Institute (R01-EY12741), a NIH Biophysics Training Grant (2T32GM08294), the Vanderbilt Discovery Program and the NSF Center for Neuromorphic Engineering at Caltech. Thanks to G.H. Glover (supported by a NIH National Center for Research Resources grant) for technical support, to D. Leopold for providing us with the single-cell electrophysiological data from his thesis, to N. Logothetis for comments, and to A. Parker and A. Huk for help and advice.

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Correspondence to David J. Heeger.

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Polonsky, A., Blake, R., Braun, J. et al. Neuronal activity in human primary visual cortex correlates with perception during binocular rivalry. Nat Neurosci 3, 1153–1159 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/80676

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