Ring models of binocular rivalry and fusion

Ziqi Wang, Wei Dai, David W. McLaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When similar visual stimuli are presented binocularly to both eyes, one perceives a fused single image. However, when the two stimuli are distinct, one does not perceive a single image; instead, one perceives binocular rivalry. That is, one perceives one of the stimulated patterns for a few seconds, then the other for few seconds, and so on – with random transitions between the two percepts. Most theoretical studies focus on rivalry, with few considering the coexistence of fusion and rivalry. Here we develop three distinct computational neuronal network models which capture binocular rivalry with realistic stochastic properties, fusion, and the hysteretic transition between. Each is a conductance-based point neuron model, which is multi-layer with two ocular dominance columns (L & R) and with an idealized “ring” architecture where the orientation preference of each neuron labels its location on a ring. In each model, the primary mechanism initiating binocular rivalry is cross-column inhibition, with firing rate adaptation governing the temporal properties of the transitions between percepts. Under stimulation by similar visual patterns, each of three models uses its own mechanism to overcome cross-column inhibition, and thus to prevent rivalry and allow the fusion of similar images: The first model uses cross-column feedforward inhibition from the opposite eye to “shut off” the cross-column feedback inhibition; the second model “turns on” a second layer of monocular neurons as a parallel pathway to the binocular neurons, rivaling out of phase with the first layer, and together these two pathways represent fusion; and the third model uses cross-column excitation to overcome the cross-column inhibition and enable fusion. Thus, each of the idealized ring models depends upon a different mechanism for fusion that might emerge as an underlying mechanism present in real visual cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-211
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Binocular rivalry
  • Computational model neuronal network
  • Fusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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