Human parietal cortex structure predicts individual differences in perceptual rivalry

Curr Biol. 2010 Sep 28;20(18):1626-30. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.07.027. Epub 2010 Aug 19.


When visual input has conflicting interpretations, conscious perception can alternate spontaneously between competing interpretations [1]. There is a large amount of unexplained variability between individuals in the rate of such spontaneous alternations in perception [2-5]. We hypothesized that variability in perceptual rivalry might be reflected in individual differences in brain structure, because brain structure can exhibit systematic relationships with an individual's cognitive experiences and skills [6-9]. To test this notion, we examined in a large group of individuals how cortical thickness, local gray-matter density, and local white-matter integrity correlate with individuals' alternation rate for a bistable, rotating structure-from-motion stimulus [10]. All of these macroscopic measures of brain structure consistently revealed that the structure of bilateral superior parietal lobes (SPL) could account for interindividual variability in perceptual alternation rate. Furthermore, we examined whether the bilateral SPL regions play a causal role in the rate of perceptual alternations by using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and found that transient disruption of these areas indeed decreases the rate of perceptual alternations. These findings demonstrate a direct relationship between structure of SPL and individuals' perceptual switch rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Dominance, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Perception / physiology*