Periodic perturbations producing phase-locked fluctuations in visual perception

Min Suk Kang, David Heeger, Randolph Blake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes a novel psychophysical and analytical technique, called periodic perturbation, for creating and characterizing perceptual waves associated with transitions in visibility of a stimulus during binocular rivalry and during binocular fusion. Observers tracked rivalry within a small, central region of spatially extended rival targets while small, brief increments in contrast ("triggers") were presented repetitively in antiphase within different regions of the two rival targets. Appropriately timed triggers produced entrainment of rivalry alternations within the central region, with the optimal timing dependent on an observer's native alternation rate. The latency between trigger and state switch increased with the distance between the location of the trigger and the central region being monitored, providing evidence for traveling waves of dominance. Traveling waves produced by periodic perturbation exhibited the same characteristics as those generated using a less ef.cient, more demanding discrete trial technique. We used periodic perturbation to reveal a novel relation between the dynamics associated with the spontaneous perceptual alternations and the speed of traveling waves across observers. In addition, we found evidence for traveling waves even when the events triggering them were initiated within regions of the visual field where binocular vision was stable, in the absence of binocular rivalry, implying that perceptual organization generally depends on spatio-temporal context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 9 2009


  • Binocular rivalry
  • Binocular vision
  • Perceptual organization
  • Perceptual waves
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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