Neural correlates of binocular rivalry in the human lateral geniculate nucleus

Abstract

When dissimilar images are presented to the two eyes, they compete for perceptual dominance so that only one image is visible at a time while the other one is suppressed. Neural correlates of such binocular rivalry have been found at multiple stages of visual processing, including striate and extrastriate visual cortex. However, little is known about the role of subcortical processing during binocular rivalry. Here we used fMRI to measure neural activity in the human LGN while subjects viewed contrast-modulated gratings presented dichoptically. Neural activity in the LGN correlated strongly with the subjects' reported percepts, such that activity increased when a high-contrast grating was perceived and decreased when a low-contrast grating was perceived. Our results provide evidence for a functional role of the LGN in binocular rivalry and suggest that the LGN, traditionally viewed as the gateway to the visual cortex, may be an early gatekeeper of visual awareness.

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Figure 1: Experimental design and stimuli.
Figure 2: fMRI signals during binocular rivalry and physical stimulus alternations in the LGN and V1 (group analysis).
Figure 3: fMRI signals during binocular rivalry and physical stimulus alternations in the LGN and V1 (single subjects).
Figure 4: Effect of perceptual duration on fMRI signals.
Figure 5: Comparison of fMRI signals during binocular rivalry and physical stimulus alternations in the LGN and V1.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Weiner for help with manuscript preparation. This study was supported by NIH grants R01MH-64043, P50MH-62196 and T32 MH065214. K.W. was also supported by the German National Academic Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service.

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Correspondence to Sabine Kastner.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Fig. 1

Checkerboard localizer. (PDF 95 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

Behavioral results. (PDF 171 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 3

fMRI signal amplitudes in LGN and V1 during rivalry (red) and physical alternations (black). (PDF 151 kb)

Supplementary Table 1 (PDF 55 kb)

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Wunderlich, K., Schneider, K. & Kastner, S. Neural correlates of binocular rivalry in the human lateral geniculate nucleus. Nat Neurosci 8, 1595–1602 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1554

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