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Introduction to research topic – binocular rivalry: a gateway to studying consciousness

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http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84068

Maier,  A
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84125

Panagiotaropoulos,  TI
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84007

Keliris,  GA
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Maier, A., Panagiotaropoulos, T., Tsuchiya, N., & Keliris, G. (2012). Introduction to research topic – binocular rivalry: a gateway to studying consciousness. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6(263), 1-3. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00263.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-B61C-B
Abstract
In 1593, Neapolitan polymath Giambattista della Porta publicly lamented that he was unable to improve his impressive productivity (he had published in areas as diverse as cryptography, hydraulics, pharmacology, optics, and classic fiction). Della Porta was trying to read two books simultaneously by placing both volumes side-by-side, and using each eye independently. To his great surprise, his setup allowed him to only read one book at a time. This discovery arguably marks the first written account of binocular rivalry (Wade, 2000) – a perceptual phenomenon that more than 400 years later still both serves to intrigue as well as to illuminate the limits of scientific knowledge. At first glance, binocular rivalry is an oddball. In every day vision, our eyes receive largely matching views of the world. The brain combines the two images into a cohesive scene, and concurrently, perception is stable. However, when showing two very different images (such as two different books) to each eye, the brain resolves the conflict by adopting a “diplomatic” strategy. Rather than mixing the views of the two eyes into an insensible visual percept, observers perceive a dynamically changing series of perceptual snapshots, with one eye’s view dominating for a few seconds before being replaced by its rival from the other eye. With prolonged viewing of a rivalrous stimulus, one inevitably experiences a sequence of subjective perceptual reversals, separated by random time intervals, and this process continues for as long as the sensory conflict is present.