Perception Journal Club

Hysteresis effects in stereopsis and binocular rivalry

Neural hysteresis plays a fundamental role in stereopsis and reveals the existence of positive feedback at the cortical level [Wilson, H. R., & Cowan, J. D. (1973). A mathematical theory of the functional dynamics of cortical and thalamic nervous tissue. Kybernetik 13(2), 55–80]. We measured hysteresis as a function of orientation disparity in tilted gratings in which a transition is perceived between stereopsis and binocular rivalry. The patterns consisted of sinusoidal gratings with orientation disparities (0degrees, 1degree, 2degrees, . . ., 40degrees) resulting in various degrees of tilt. A movie of these 41 pattern pairs was shown at a rate of 0.5, 1 or 2 pattern pairs per second, in forward or reverse order. Two transition points were measured: the point at which the single tilted grating appeared to split into two rivalrous gratings (T1), and the point at which two rivalrous gratings appeared to merge into a single tilted grating (T2). The transitions occurred at different orientation disparities (T1 = 25.4, T2 = 17.0) which was consistent with hysteresis and far exceeded the difference which could be attributed to reaction time. The results are consistent with a cortical model which includes positive feedback and recurrent inhibition between neural units representing different eyes and orientations.