Event Abstract

Multi-Stable Visual Motion Perception

  • 1 Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Germany
  • 2 Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Germany
  • 3 Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Germany
  • 4 University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Perceptual multi-stability is established when the brain fails to reach a single interpretation of the input from the external world. This issue intrigued scientific minds for more than two hundred years. This phenomenon has been found in vision (Leopold & Logothetis, 1999), audition (Repp, 2007), olfaction (Zhou & Chen, 2009) and speech (Warren & Gregory, 1958). Crucial features are similar within and across modalities (Schwarts et al., 2012).

In the visual modality, a number of ambiguous visual patterns have been described such as the Necker cube, motion plaids, and binocular rivalry. Multi-stable stimuli can provide unique insights into visual processing, as changes in perception are decoupled from changes in the stimulus. Understanding of how multi-stable perception occurs might help one to understand visual perception in general.

A key question in multi-stable perception is what the brain processes are responsible in the identification and alternation of the percepts. Some investigators suggest that both top-down and bottom-up processes are involved (García Pérez, 1989) but others argue that multi-stable perception does not need high-level processing but happens automatically as low-level competition between the stimulus features (Akman et al., 2009; Wilson et al, 2000). Furthermore, it is well known that changes in stimulus features can bias perception in one or another direction, (Klink, et al., 2012).

In order to explore this question, we used multi-stable motion stimuli and specifically moving plaids consisting of three superimposed gratings moving in equidistant directions (difference of 120 deg). These stimuli induce the perception of component and pattern motion simultaneously since any two component gratings bind together and are perceived to move in the opposite direction of the third grating component. We modulated properties of the stimuli such as grating speed and size and recorded the responses of human subjects reporting the direction of the single grating using one of three buttons for each direction. Preliminary results show that perceptual dominance is greatly affected by the selection of grating speeds. Grating size did not greatly change the predominance of the different gratings. We find that gratings with speed closer to physiological values have greater probability to be perceived and that gratings with similar speeds tend to group more often than gratings with different speeds. Further manipulations of other stimulus features like contrast and spatial frequency allow parametric variations of the relative probabilities of different interpretations. Our future goal is to use this information to built models of perceptual alternations using probabilistic inference.


This work is supported by Max Planck Society and Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Tübingen.


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Keywords: motion, multi-stable perception, Probabilistic inference, visual

Conference: Bernstein Conference 2012, Munich, Germany, 12 Sep - 14 Sep, 2012.

Presentation Type: Poster

Topic: Sensory processing and perception

Citation: Li Q, Fleming RW, Logothetis NK and Keliris GA (2012). Multi-Stable Visual Motion Perception. Front. Comput. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: Bernstein Conference 2012. doi: 10.3389/conf.fncom.2012.55.00058

Received: 26 May 2012; Published Online: 12 Sep 2012.

* Correspondence: Dr. Georgios A Keliris, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tubingen, Germany, georgios.keliris@uantwerpen.be

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