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This article is part of the supplement: Seventeenth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2008

Open Access Open Badges Lecture presentation

Alternating perceptions of ambiguous scenes: what's out there?

John Rinzel

Author Affiliations

Center for Neural Science and Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, NY, USA

BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9(Suppl 1):L1  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-S1-L1

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:11 July 2008

© 2008 Rinzel; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Lecture presentation

When visualizing an ambiguous scene (such as the Necker cube) one may perceive ongoing random alternations between the possible interpretations. Dynamical models implement competition as reciprocal inhibition between neuronal populations; dominance alternates while slow negative feedback, adaptation, sets the basic time scale (seconds) for switching. When adaptation is strong enough it overcomes dominance and alternations occur intrinsically and periodically; noise perturbs the regularity. In a different framework, with attractor-based dynamics, adaptation is weak and switches are induced by noise operating on a bistable system. We find that statistics of the observed alternations provide constraints that favor an operating range near the transition zone between the parameter regimes for the two mechanisms. In some paradigms one can manipulate stimulus cues to bias the competition away from equal dominance. We have proposed that the percentage of time dominant is a measure for the likelihood of valid interpretation of the scene.