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Randolph Blake; Binocular rivalry. Journal of Vision 2011;11(15):76. doi: 10.1167/11.15.76.
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Binocular rivalry is often touted as an effective tool for studying the neural concomitants of consciousness, a justifiable claim given that rivalry entails complete perceptual erasure of an ordinarily visible stimulus for seconds at a time. My talk summarizes emerging insights about rivalry's underlying processes and documents how those insights have shaped the evolution of models of rivalry over the past two decades, a period of time during which interest in rivalry has exploded. Two themes run throughout the talk. The first centers around the extent to which a stimulus suppressed from perceptual awareness during rivalry remains effective as assessed using psychophysical and brain imaging techniques. Evidence bearing on that question implies that some aspects of a stimulus are less susceptible to interocular suppression than are others. Interocular suppression thus operates like the chemical process of fractional distillation, separating qualia comprising visual awareness of objects and events. A second theme focuses on the influence of visual cognition and non-visual “top-down” factors, including motor control, on the dynamics of binocular rivalry. Time permitting, I will speculate about emerging questions that could shape work on rivalry during the next several years, including the bases of the large individual differences in rivalry dynamics.
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