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Artem Platonov, Jeroen Goossens; Eye dominance alternations in binocular rivalry do not require visual awareness. Journal of Vision 2014;14(11):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.11.2.
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Binocular rivalry provides a valuable means to study how sensory processing gives rise to subjective experiences because it involves a changing percept without any change in the visual stimulus. An important question, however, is whether visual awareness is necessary for binocular rivalry to emerge. To address this question, we presented conflicting random dot motion stimuli in the two eyes at luminance contrasts around perceptual threshold. We asked subjects to report continuously, via button presses, if they noticed any kind of motion in the display (be it coherent or not) and indicate which direction of motion they thought was dominant at any given instant even if they were unaware of any motion in the display. We biased the competition between the two dichoptic stimuli by changing the motion coherence in one eye while keeping it fixed in the other to test if this induced predictable changes in rivalry dynamics. We also probed the strength of the interocular suppression. Our data show that binocular rivalry continues even if subjects claim complete absence of visual motion awareness. This remarkable dissociation between visually guided behavior and visual awareness resembles the dissociation seen in other phenomena, such as blindsight and visual masking. Fluctuations in awareness that did occur were temporally linked to the dominance switches in a manner that is consistent with adaptation reciprocal-inhibition models of binocular rivalry.
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