It is often assumed that decision making involves neural competition, accumulation of evidence "scores" over time, and commitment to a particular alternative once its scores reach a critical decision threshold first. So far, however, neither the first-to-threshold rule nor the nature of competition (feedforward or feedback inhibition) has been revealed by experiments. Here, we presented two simultaneously flashed targets that reversed their intensity difference during each presentation and instructed human subjects to make a saccade toward the brightest target. All subjects preferentially chose the target that was brightest during the first stimulus phase. Unless this first phase lasted only 40 ms, this primacy effect persisted even if the second, reversed-intensity phase lasted longer. This effect did not result from premature commitment to the initially dominant target, because a strong target imbalance in the opposite direction later drove nearly all responses toward that location. Moreover, there was a nonmonotonic relation between target imbalance and primacy: increasing the target imbalance beyond 40 cd/m(2) caused an attenuation of primacy. These are the hallmarks of hysteresis, predicted by models in which target representations compete through strong feedback. Reaction times were independent of the choice probability. This dissociation suggests that target selection and movement initiation are distinct phenomena.
Previous studies have indicated that saccadic eye movements correlate positively with perceptual alternations in binocular rivalry, presumably because the foveal image changes resulting from saccades, rather than the eye movement themselves, cause switches in awareness. Recently, however, we found evidence that retinal image shifts elicit so-called onset rivalry and not percept switches as such. These findings raise the interesting question whether onset rivalry may account for correlations between saccades and percept switches. We therefore studied binocular rivalry when subjects made eye movements across a visual stimulus and compared it with the rivalry in a replay condition in which subjects maintained fixation while the same retinal displacements were reproduced by stimulus displacements on the screen. We used dichoptic random-dot motion stimuli viewed through a stereoscope, and measured eye and eyelid movements with scleral search-coils. Positive correlations between retinal image shifts and perceptual switches were observed for both saccades and stimulus jumps, but only for switches towards the subjects preferred eye at stimulus onset. A similar asymmetry was observed for blink-induced stimulus interruptions. Moreover, for saccades, amplitude appeared crucial as the positive correlation persisted for small stimulus jumps, but not for small saccades (amplitudes < 1°). These findings corroborate our tenet that saccades elicit a form of onset rivalry, and that rivalry is modulated by extra-retinal eye movement signals.
Recent studies suggest that binocular rivalry at stimulus onset, so called onset rivalry, differs from rivalry during sustained viewing. These observations raise the interesting question whether there is a relation between onset rivalry and rivalry in the presence of eye movements. We therefore studied binocular rivalry when stimuli jumped from one visual hemifield to the other, either through a saccade or through a passive stimulus displacement, and we compared rivalry after such displacements with onset and sustained rivalry. We presented opponent motion, orthogonal gratings and face/house stimuli through a stereoscope. For all three stimulus types we found that subjects showed a strong preference for stimuli in one eye or one hemifield (Experiment 1), and that these subject-specific biases did not persist during sustained viewing (Experiment 2). These results confirm and extend previous findings obtained with gratings. The results from the main experiment (Experiment 3) showed that after a passive stimulus jump, switching probability was low when the preferred eye was dominant before a stimulus jump, but when the non-preferred eye was dominant beforehand, switching probability was comparatively high. The results thus showed that dominance after a stimulus jump was tightly related to eye dominance at stimulus onset. In the saccade condition, however, these subject-specific biases were systematically reduced, indicating that the influence of saccades can be understood from a systematic attenuation of the subjects onset rivalry biases. Taken together, our findings demonstrate a relation between onset rivalry and rivalry after retinal shifts and involvement of extra-retinal signals in binocular rivalry.
Speed and accuracy of visual motion discrimination depend systematically on motion strength. This behavior is traditionally explained by diffusion models that assume accumulation of sensory evidence over time to a decision bound. However, how does the brain decide when sensory evidence is ambiguous, such as in binocular rivalry? Theories on bistable vision propose that such a conflict is resolved through competitive interactions between adapting units encoding the alternative stimulus interpretations. Thus, distinctly different theoretical frameworks have been proposed for deciding under uncertainty and ambiguity; a discrepancy overlooked so far. Here, we studied motion discrimination at stimulus onset under both conditions. In Experiment 1, speed and accuracy were similar when observers viewed noisy, unambiguous motion patterns in which signal dots were either at identical or at different, uncorrelated locations for the two eyes. This result is compatible with a race between two monocular discrimination processes. However, Experiments 2 and 3 showed that reaction times increase under rivalry conditions and that this increase cannot be explained by motion transparency. The data thus reveal competitive rivalry interactions. We discuss a model that can account for the accuracy and latencies observed under both ambiguous and unambiguous conditions, by combining key elements from diffusion and rivalry models.
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