Early visual experience sculpts neural mechanisms that regulate the balance of influence exerted by the two eyes on cortical mechanisms underlying binocular vision [1, 2], and experience's impact on this neural balancing act continues into adulthood [3-5]. One recently described, compelling example of adult neural plasticity is the effect of patching one eye for a relatively short period of time: contrary to intuition, monocular visual deprivation actually improves the deprived eye's competitive advantage during a subsequent period of binocular rivalry [6-8], the robust form of visual competition prompted by dissimilar stimulation of the two eyes [9, 10]. Neural concomitants of this improvement in monocular dominance are reflected in measurements of brain responsiveness following eye patching [11, 12]. Here we report that patching an eye is unnecessary for producing this paradoxical deprivation effect: interocular suppression of an ordinarily visible stimulus being viewed by one eye is sufficient to produce shifts in subsequent predominance of that eye to an extent comparable to that produced by patching the eye. Moreover, this imbalance in eye dominance can also be induced by prior, extended viewing of two monocular images differing only in contrast. Regardless of how shifts in eye dominance are induced, the effect decays once the two eyes view stimuli equal in strength. These novel findings implicate the operation of interocular neural gain control that dynamically adjusts the relative balance of activity between the two eyes [13, 14].
Keywords: binocular rivalry; binocular vision; continuous flash suppression; interocular suppression; monocular deprivation; ocular dominance; perceptual deprivation.
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