Binocular rivalry from invisible patterns

Jinyou Zou, Sheng He, Peng Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Binocular rivalry arises when incompatible images are presented to the two eyes. If the two eyes' conflicting features are invisible, leading to identical perceptual interpretations, does rivalry competition still occur? Here we investigated whether binocular rivalry can be induced from conflicting but invisible spatial patterns. A chromatic grating counterphase flickering at 30 Hz appeared uniform, but produced significant tilt aftereffect and orientation-selective adaptation. The invisible pattern also generated significant BOLD activities in the early visual cortex, with minimal response in the parietal and frontal cortical areas. Compared with perceptually matched uniform stimuli, a monocularly presented invisible chromatic grating enhanced the rivalry competition with a low-contrast visible grating presented to the other eye. Furthermore, switching from a uniform field to a perceptually matched invisible chromatic grating produced interocular suppression at approximately 200 ms after onset of the invisible grating. Experiments using briefly presented monocular probes revealed evidence for sustained rivalry competition between two invisible gratings during continuous dichoptic presentations. These findings indicate that even without visible interocular conflict, and with minimal engagement of frontoparietal cortex and consciousness related top-down feedback, perceptually identical patternswith invisible conflict features produce rivalry competition in the early visual cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8408-8413
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 26 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Nature Science Foundation of China Grant 31322025, Chinese Academy of Science Grant XDB02050001, and National Institutes of Health Grant R01 EY023101. P.Z. was supported by Hundred-Talent Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y4CBR11001).


  • Awareness
  • Binocular rivalry
  • Visual cortex

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