Neural bases of binocular rivalry

Trends Cogn Sci. 2006 Nov;10(11):502-11. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.09.003. Epub 2006 Sep 25.


During binocular rivalry, conflicting monocular images compete for access to consciousness in a stochastic, dynamical fashion. Recent human neuroimaging and psychophysical studies suggest that rivalry entails competitive interactions at multiple neural sites, including sites that retain eye-selective information. Rivalry greatly suppresses activity in the ventral pathway and attenuates visual adaptation to form and motion; nonetheless, some information about the suppressed stimulus reaches higher brain areas. Although rivalry depends on low-level inhibitory interactions, high-level excitatory influences promoting perceptual grouping and selective attention can extend the local dominance of a stimulus over space and time. Inhibitory and excitatory circuits considered within a hybrid model might account for the paradoxical properties of binocular rivalry and provide insights into the neural bases of visual awareness itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*