Section: New Results

Vision in Neuroscience

The relative contribution of noise and adaptation to competition during tri-stable motion perception

Participants : Andrew Meso [Bournemouth University, UK] , James Rankin [Center for Neural Science, NYU, USA] , Olivier Faugeras [Inria MathNeuro] , Pierre Kornprobst [Inria BioVision] , Guillaume Masson [Institut de Neuroscience de la Timone, France] .

Animals exploit antagonistic interactions for sensory processing and these can cause oscillations between competing states. Ambiguous sensory inputs yield such perceptual multi-stability. Despite numerous empirical studies using binocular rivalry or plaid pattern motion, the driving mechanisms behind the spontaneous transitions between alternatives remain unclear. In the current work, we used a tri-stable barberpole motion stimulus combining empirical and modelling approaches to elucidate the contributions of noise and adaptation to underlying competition. We first robustly characterised the coupling between perceptual reports of transitions and continuously recorded eye direction, identifying a critical window of 480ms before button presses within which both measures were most strongly correlated. Second, we identified a novel non monotonic relationship between stimulus contrast and average perceptual switching rate with an initially rising rate before a gentle reduction at higher contrasts. A neural fields model of the underlying dynamics introduced in previous theoretical work and incorporating noise and adaptation mechanisms was adapted, extended and empirically validated. Noise and adaptation contributions were confirmed to dominate at the lower, and higher, contrasts respectively. Model simulations with two free parameters, controlling adaptation dynamics and direction thresholds, captured the measured mean transition rates for participants. We verified the shift from noise dominated towards adaptation-driven in both the eye direction distributions and inter-transition duration statistics. This work combines modelling and empirical evidence to demonstrate the signal strength dependent interplay between noise and adaptation during tri- stability. We propose that the findings generalise beyond the barberpole stimulus case to ambiguous perception in continuous feature spaces.

This work has been published in Journal of Vision and is available as [19].