Ambiguous figures – what happens in the brain when perception changes but not the stimulus
- 1 Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany
- 2 University Eye-Hospital, Freiburg, Germany
During observation of ambiguous figures our perception reverses spontaneously although the visual information stays unchanged. Research on this phenomenon so far suffered from the difficulty to determine the instant of the endogenous reversals with sufficient temporal precision. A novel experimental paradigm with discontinuous stimulus presentation improved on previous temporal estimates of the reversal event by a factor of three. It revealed that disambiguation of ambiguous visual information takes roughly 50 ms or two loops of recurrent neural activity. Further, the decision about the perceptual outcome has taken place at least 340 ms before the observer is able to indicate the consciously perceived reversal manually. We provide a short review about physiological studies on multistable perception with a focus on electrophysiological data. We further present a new perspective on multistable perception that can easily integrate previous apparently contradicting explanatory approaches. Finally we propose possible extensions toward other research fields where ambiguous figure perception may be useful as an investigative tool.
Keywords: ambiguous figures, multistable perception, Necker cube, old/young woman, EEG/ERP, event-related potentials, reversal positivity, reversal negativity
Citation: Kornmeier J and Bach M (2012) Ambiguous figures – what happens in the brain when perception changes but not the stimulus. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:51. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00051
Received: 29 October 2011; Paper pending published: 27 November 2011;
Accepted: 26 February 2012; Published online: 22 March 2012.
Copyright: © 2012 Kornmeier and Bach. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence: Jürgen Kornmeier, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Wilhelmstraße 3a, 79098 Freiburg i. Br., Germany. e-mail: email@example.com