Beta oscillations correlate with the probability of perceiving rivalrous visual stimuli

J Vis. 2010 Nov 1;10(13):18. doi: 10.1167/10.13.18.


Under continuous lighting, moving stimuli such as ceiling fans and car wheels can sporadically appear to move in the reverse direction-this phenomenon is known as illusory motion reversal (IMR). We have previously suggested that IMR results from the spurious activation of motion detectors tuned for the opposite direction of motion, leading to a rivalry between two possible motion percepts. To determine if this hypothesis is supported by evidence from electrophysiology, we used EEG to directly compare neural signatures in IMR and binocular rivalry (BR), a well-studied form of rivalry. We find that both IMR and BR show large changes in power in the beta range (14-30 Hz) at the time of a perceptual switch. More importantly, during a stable perception, beta power correlates with the probability of a perception. Specifically, beta power associated with veridical motion perception (experienced the majority of the time) is higher than the power during illusory motion perception (experienced a minority of the time). The BR percepts, each 50% probable, are associated with an intermediate beta amplitude. We propose that the amplitude of synchronized beta activity reflects the size of currently active neural coalitions, with less likely percepts associated with smaller coalitions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beta Rhythm
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*
  • Vision, Binocular / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*