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Nat Commun. 2014 Aug 28;5:4765. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5765.

Energy landscape and dynamics of brain activity during human bistable perception.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK.
Department of Engineering Mathematics, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1UB, UK.
Centre for Consciousness Science, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Pevensey 1, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK.
1] Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK [2] Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Individual differences in the structure of parietal and prefrontal cortex predict the stability of bistable visual perception. However, the mechanisms linking such individual differences in brain structures to behaviour remain elusive. Here we demonstrate a systematic relationship between the dynamics of brain activity, cortical structure and behaviour underpinning bistable perception. Using fMRI in humans, we find that the activity dynamics during bistable perception are well described as fluctuating between three spatially distributed energy minimums: visual-area-dominant, frontal-area-dominant and intermediate states. Transitions between these energy minimums predicted behaviour, with participants whose brain activity tend to reflect the visual-area-dominant state exhibiting more stable perception and those whose activity transits to frontal-area-dominant states reporting more frequent perceptual switches. Critically, these brain activity dynamics are correlated with individual differences in grey matter volume of the corresponding brain areas. Thus, individual differences in the large-scale dynamics of brain activity link focal brain structure with bistable perception.

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