Abstract

We combine population coding, winner-take-all competition, and differentiated inhibitory feedback to model the process by which information from different, continuously variable signals is integrated for perceptual awareness. We focus on “slant rivalry,” where binocular disparity is in conflict with monocular perspective in specifying surface slant. Using a robust single parameter set, our model successfully replicates three key experimental results: (1) transition from signal averaging to bistability with increasing signal conflict, (2) change in perceptual reversal rates as a function of signal conflict, and (3) a shift in the distribution of percept durations through voluntary control exertion. Voluntary control is implemented through the use of a single top-down bias input. The transition from signal averaging to bistability arises as a natural consequence of combining population coding and wide receptive fields, common to higher cortical areas. The model architecture does not contain any assumption that would limit it to this particular example of stimulus rivalry. An emergent physiological interpretation is that differentiated inhibitory feedback may play an important role for increasing percept stability without reducing sensitivity to large stimulus changes, which for bistable conditions leads to increased alternation rate as a function of signal conflict.

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