Journal Article

Surface Area of Early Visual Cortex Predicts Individual Speed of Traveling Waves During Binocular Rivalry

Erhan Genç, Johanna Bergmann, Wolf Singer and Axel Kohler

in Cerebral Cortex

Volume 25, issue 6, pages 1499-1508
Published in print June 2015 | ISSN: 1047-3211
Published online December 2013 | e-ISSN: 1460-2199 | DOI:
Surface Area of Early Visual Cortex Predicts Individual Speed of Traveling Waves During Binocular Rivalry

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  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience


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Binocular rivalry ensues when different images are presented to the 2 eyes with conscious perception alternating between the possible interpretations. For large rivalry displays, perceptual transitions are initiated at one location and spread to other parts of the visual field, a phenomenon termed “traveling wave.” Previous studies investigated the underlying neural mechanisms of the traveling wave and surmised that primary visual cortex might play an important role. We used magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral measures in humans to explore how interindividual differences in observers' subjective experience of the wave are related to anatomical characteristics of cortical regions. We measured wave speed in participants and confirmed the long-term stability of the individual values. Retinotopic mapping was employed to delineate borders of visual areas V1–V3 in order to determine surface area and cortical thickness in those regions. Only the surface areas of V1 and V2, but not V3 showed a correlation with wave speed. For individuals with larger V1/V2 area, the traveling wave needed longer to spread across the same distance in visual space. Our results highlight the role of early visual areas in mediating binocular rivalry and suggest possible mechanisms for the correlation between surface area and the traveling waves.

Keywords: binocular rivalry; interindividual differences; primary visual cortex; surface size; traveling wave

Journal Article.  8145 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neurology ; Clinical Neuroscience ; Neuroscience

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