Winner-take-all circuits exhibit key hallmarks of binocular rivalry

S Marx1, G Gruenhage2, D Walper1, U Rutishauser3, W Einhauser1

1Neurophysics, Philipps-University Marburg, Germany
2Methods of Artificial Intelligence, BCCN Berlin, Germany
3Neurosurgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, CA, United States


Perception is inherently ambiguous. Rivalry models such ambiguity by presenting constant stimuli that evoke alternating perceptual interpretations. We modeled key phenomena that are common to nearly all forms of rivalry: i) Dominance durations, the times during which a single percept is perceived, follow a heavy-tailed distribution. ii) Changes in stimulus strength have well-defined effects on dominance durations (Levelt's propositions). iii) Long periodic stimulus removal ("blanking") stabilizes the percept, while short blanking destabilizes it. The model consisted of three coupled winner-take-all circuits with 2 excitatory and 1 inhibitory units each. We found that the network exhibited all three hallmarks of rivalry; it made novel predictions on the functional dependence of dominance durations on stimulus strength and blank duration, which we verified with 2 binocular rivalry experiments. Beyond predicting all hallmarks of rivalry, our model is well founded in neuronal circuitry. It is a generic model of competitive processes rather than tailored to explain specific aspects of rivalry. Hence our model provides a natural link from rivalry to other forms of perceptual ambiguity and to other competitive processes, such as attention and decision-making. Acknowledgement: Financial support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through grant EI 852/3 (WE) is gratefully acknowledged.

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