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Daniel H. Baker, Erich W. Graf; Binocular rivalry favors naturalistic stimuli in space and time. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):292. doi: 10.1167/9.8.292.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The spatiotemporal structure of natural images has characteristic amplitude and phase spectra. For example, the distribution of spatial and temporal frequency information is proportional to 1/f a, where f is frequency and a has a value near unity. The visual system seems optimized to these properties, with discrimination performance and gain control mechanisms most efficient when a≈1 (e.g. McDonald & Tadmor, 2006, Vision Res, 46: 3098–3104). Here, we ask if binocular rivalry is sensitive to properties typical of natural scenes. We used filtered 2D noise (tinted red or blue to aid identification) and varied the value of a in either the spatial or temporal domain in two separate experiments. All stimuli were equated for RMS contrast and presented dichoptically in counterbalanced, pairwise factorial combination (2 experiments, 15 unique pairs each, 4 observers, 5 repetitions, 1-min trials). We found that stimuli for which a=1 showed the greatest predominance in both the spatial and temporal domains. We compare these findings to perceived contrast measurements for the same stimuli, and the total contrast energy in each image after passing through a model contrast sensitivity function. We conclude that the strong contrast dependency of rivalry is the mechanism by which binocular vision is optimized for viewing natural images. Additionally, we compared rivalry between natural and phase-scrambled images. With stimuli equated for total energy, images with natural phase structure were dominant for 70% of the trial duration (averaged over 8 images and 6 observers for a total of 576 1-min trials). We ruled out the effects of bias using a simulated rivalry condition, which produced an average natural image dominance of 50% (i.e. no bias). This evidence indicates that binocular rivalry is preferentially sensitive to the properties of natural images across space, time and phase.
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