Perceptual rivalry is one of the neatest ways to study the neural correlates of the contents of consciousness. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, you can read Olivia Carter’s online tutorial on binocular rivalry, one commonly studied type of perceptual rivalry.
Perceptual rivalry should fascinate anyone with an interest in consciousness research. It is also a rare area where scientific studies of consciousness and hallucinogens converge. Carter has done groundbreaking studies (links below) of how psilocybin and possibly LSD affect perceptual rivalry, including some research using the amazing phenomenon of motion-induced blindness (demo here), my favorite visual illusion. Carter’s research is consistently inspiring: She uses rigorous quantitative tools to measure the effects of pharmacological manipulations on consciousness. Her work is one reason I consider perceptual rivalry among the most interesting directions to pursue in future human hallucinogen research, even if (as Carter and Dittrich’s data suggest) hallucinogens do not affect rivalry through a 5-HT2A mechanism.
Two noteworthy developments in non-hallucinogenic rivalry research are a paper by Jakob Hohwy and colleagues giving an elegant theory for why rivalry occurs and a great paper by Joel Pearson and colleagues showing that mental imagery influences rivalry.
Read the rest…