Song, C (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, Inst Neurosci, State Key Lab Neurosci, Shanghai, Peoples R China,email@example.com
Background: Visual perception is usually stable and accurate. However, when the two eyes are simultaneously presented with conflicting stimuli, perception falls into a sequence of spontaneous alternations, switching between one stimulus and the other every few seconds. Known as binocular rivalry, this visual illusion decouples subjective experience from physical stimulation and provides a unique opportunity to study the neural correlates of consciousness. The temporal properties of this alternating perception have been intensively investigated for decades, yet the relationship between two fundamental properties-the sequence of percepts and the duration of each percept-remains largely unexplored. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we examine the relationship between the percept sequence and the percept duration by quantifying their sensitivity to the strength imbalance between two monocular stimuli. We found that the percept sequence is far more susceptible to the stimulus imbalance than does the percept duration. The percept sequence always begins with the stronger stimulus, even when the stimulus imbalance is too weak to cause a significant bias in the percept duration. Therefore, introducing a small stimulus imbalance affects the percept sequence, whereas increasing the imbalance affects the percept duration, but not vice versa. To investigate why the percept sequence is so vulnerable to the stimulus imbalance, we further measured the interval between the stimulus onset and the first percept, during which subjects experienced the fusion of two monocular stimuli. We found that this interval is dramatically shortened with increased stimulus imbalance. Conclusions/Significance: Our study shows that in binocular rivalry, the strength imblanace between monocular stimuli has a much greater impact on the percept sequence than on the percept duration, and increasing this imbalance can accelerate the process responsible for the percept sequence.