Volume 11 Supplement 1
Percept strength at the onset of bistable perception
© Shpiro et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010
Published: 20 July 2010
When presented with a stimulus that allows for two distinct interpretations, observers perceive one interpretation exclusively at any moment, and perception switches between the alternatives. Dynamics of the alternations is governed by the parameters of the stimulus. Varying the parameters, it is possible to affect both absolute and relative amount of time spent perceiving each interpretation (“percept”). Theoretical and experimental studies of bistable perception have been focused on its long term dynamics. We consider the transitional stage of bistable perception, right after the onset of the stimulus for binocular rivalry, ambiguous plaid motion, and bistable depth ordering phenomena. We compare the long term percept strength (relative amount of time spent in this percept), and its strength at the onset of rivalry (probability to be the first to dominate after the stimulus is presented).
We investigate whether competition models describing bistable perception  can account for the difference between the early and long term strength of the percept. Simulations show that adaptation-dominated, rather than noise-dominated regime of producing alternations in the models is better suited to provide agreement with experiments. (Fig.1B,1C) Other features of bistable perception, such as the similar lengths of the first few and long term dominance durations, and the mean and shape of the dominance durations distributions favor noise as a switching mechanism [1, 2]. These observations support the conclusion that the models must operate within a balance between the noise and adaptation in order to reproduce experimentally observed statistics of bistable perception. Our results also suggest that the relative contribution of noise and adaptation in producing perceptual alternations may change over time.
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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.