Dynamic properties of internal noise probed by modulating binocular rivalry

by Daniel H. Baker, Bruno Richard

Neural systems are inherently noisy, and this noise can affect our perception from moment to moment. This is particularly apparent in binocular rivalry, where perception of competing stimuli shown to the left and right eyes alternates over time. We modulated rivalling stimuli using dynamic sequences of external noise of various rates and amplitudes. We repeated each external noise sequence twice, and assessed the consistency of percepts across repetitions. External noise modulations of sufficiently high contrast increased consistency scores above baseline, and were most effective at 1/8Hz. A computational model of rivalry in which internal noise has a 1/f (pink) temporal amplitude spectrum, and a standard deviation of 16% contrast, provided the best account of our data. Our novel technique provides detailed estimates of the dynamic properties of internal noise during binocular rivalry, and by extension the stochastic processes that drive our perception and other types of spontaneous brain activity.

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