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Predictive Context Influences Perceptual Selection during Binocular Rivalry.


PREDICTION MAY BE A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF SENSORY PROCESSING: it has been proposed that the brain continuously generates predictions about forthcoming sensory information. However, little is known about how prediction contributes to the selection of a conscious percept from among competing alternatives. Here, we used binocular rivalry to investigate the effects of prediction on perceptual selection. In binocular rivalry, incompatible images presented to the two eyes result in a perceptual alternation between the images, even though the visual stimuli remain constant. If predictive signals influence the competition between neural representations of rivalrous images, this influence should generate a bias in perceptual selection that depends on predictive context. To manipulate predictive context, we developed a novel binocular rivalry paradigm in which rivalrous test images were immediately preceded by a sequence of context images presented identically to the two eyes. One of the test images was consistent with the preceding image sequence (it was the expected next image in the series), and the other was inconsistent (non-predicted). We found that human observers were more likely to perceive the consistent image at the onset of rivalry, suggesting that predictive context biased selection in favor of the predicted percept. This prediction effect was distinct from the effects of adaptation to stimuli presented before the binocular rivalry test. In addition, perceptual reports were speeded for predicted percepts relative to non-predicted percepts. These results suggest that predictive signals related to visual stimulus history exist at neural sites that can bias conscious perception during binocular rivalry. Our paradigm provides a new way to study how prior information and incoming sensory information combine to generate visual percepts.

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