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Perception. 2005;34(7):803-22.

Perceptual alternation induced by visual transients.

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Psychonomics Division, Helmholtz Research Institute, Universiteit Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 2, NL-3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands.


When our visual system is confronted with ambiguous stimuli, the perceptual interpretation spontaneously alternates between the competing incompatible interpretations. The timing of such perceptual alternations is highly stochastic and the underlying neural mechanisms are poorly understood. We show that perceptual alternations can be triggered by a transient stimulus presented nearby. The induction was tested for four types of bistable stimuli: structure-from-motion, binocular rivalry, Necker cube, and ambiguous apparent motion. While underlying mechanisms may vary among them, a transient flash induced time-locked perceptual alternations in all cases. The effect showed a dependence on the adaptation to the dominant percept prior to the presentation of a flash. These perceptual alternations show many similarities to perceptual disappearances induced by transient stimuli (Kanai and Kamitani, 2003 Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 15 664-672; Moradi and Shimojo, 2004 Vision Research 44 449-460). Mechanisms linking these two transient-induced phenomena are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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