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Vadim Petruk, Bin He, Stephen Engel, Sheng He; Stimulus rivalry and binocular rivalry share a common neural substrate. Journal of Vision 2018;18(9):18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.9.18.
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When two incompatible images are shown separately to each eye, a perceptual process known as binocular rivalry occurs by which the two images compete for awareness. The site of competition for binocular rivalry has been a topic of debate, and recent theories are that it may occur either at low levels of the visual system where the inputs from the two eyes are combined or at high levels of the visual system where the two images are processed. One of the major pieces of evidence for a high-level image account of rivalry is a phenomenon known as stimulus rivalry, in which two competing stimuli are swapped between the eyes at 3 Hz. However, there is little available neurophysiological evidence for a neural substrate for this high-level competition. Here, we used frequency tagging of two competing stimuli in binocular rivalry and stimulus rivalry in humans to evaluate whether the steady-state visually evoked potentials (SSVEPs) show similar signatures of neural competition for both conditions. We found that flickering the stimuli generates spectral power at the tagged frequencies in both types of rivalry in the early visual cortex. We then quantified dynamic signatures of competition by tracking amplitude changes in the frequency tags, which showed that both types of rivalry colocalized in occipital regions of the cortex. Thus, contrary to our hypothesis that stimulus rivalry was being mediated by high-level competition between the images, we find that neural competition measured by the SSVEP instead suggests that the sites of competition for stimulus rivalry and binocular rivalry may similarly include the occipital pole and middle temporal gyrus (hMT+/V5) of the visual system, consistent with a low-level, binocular interpretation.
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