Age-dependency in binocular rivalry is reflected by exclusive percepts, not mixed percepts

Elahe Arani*, Raymond van Ee, Richard van Wezel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Some aspects of decision-making are known to decline with normal aging. One of the known perceptual decision-making processes which is vastly studied is binocular rivalry. It is well-established that the older the person, the slower the perceptual dynamics. However, the underlying neurobiological cause is unknown. So, to understand how age affects visual decision-making, we investigated age-related changes in perception during binocular rivalry. In binocular rivalry, the image presented to one eye competes for perceptual dominance with the image presented to the other eye. Perception during binocular rivalry consists of alternations between exclusive percepts. However, frequently, mixed percepts with combinations of the two monocular images occur. The mixed percepts reflect a transition from the percept of one eye to the other but frequently the transitions do not complete the full cycle and the previous exclusive percept becomes dominant again. The transitional idiosyncrasy of mixed percepts has not been studied systematically in different age groups. Previously, we have found evidence for adaptation and noise, and not inhibition, as underlying neural factors that are related to age-dependent perceptual decisions. Based on those conclusions, we predict that mixed percepts/inhibitory interactions should not change with aging. Therefore, in an old and a young age group, we studied binocular rivalry dynamics considering both exclusive and mixed percepts by using two paradigms: percept-choice and percept-switch. We found a decrease in perceptual alternation Probability for older adults, although the rate of mixed percepts did not differ significantly compared to younger adults. Interestingly, the mixed percepts play a very similar transitional idiosyncrasy in our different age groups. Further analyses suggest that differences in synaptic depression, gain modulation at the input level, and/or slower execution of motor commands are not the determining factors to explain these findings. We then argue that changes in perceptual decisions at an older age are the result of changes in neural adaptation and noise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19271
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2019


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