Acute Alcohol Drinking Promotes Piecemeal Percepts during Binocular Rivalry.
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Binocular rivalry refers to perceptual alternation when two eyes view different images. One of the potential percepts during binocular rivalry is a spatial mosaic of left- and right-eye images, known as piecemeal percepts, which may result from localized rivalries between small regions in the left- and right-eye images. It is known that alcohol increases inhibitory neurotransmission, which may reduce the number of alternations during binocular rivalry. However, it is unclear whether alcohol affects rivalry dynamics in the same manner for both coherent percepts (i.e., percepts of complete left or right images) and piecemeal percepts. To address this question, the present study measured the dynamics of binocular rivalry before and after 15 moderate-to-heavy social drinkers consumed an intoxicating dose of alcohol versus a placebo beverage. Both simple rivalrous stimuli consisting of gratings with different orientations, and complex stimuli consisting of a face or a house were tested to examine alcohol effects on rivalry as a function of stimulus complexity. Results showed that for both simple and complex stimuli, alcohol affects coherent and piecemeal percepts differently. More specifically, alcohol reduced the number of coherent percepts but not the mean dominance duration of coherent percepts. In contrast, for piecemeal percepts, alcohol increased the mean dominance duration but not the number of piecemeal percepts. These results suggested that alcohol drinking may selectively affect the dynamics of transitional period of binocular rivalry by increasing the duration of piecemeal percepts, leading to a reduction in the number of coherent percepts. The differential effect of alcohol on the dynamics of coherent and piecemeal percepts cannot be accounted for by alcohol's effect on a common inhibitory mechanism. Other mechanisms, such as increasing neural noise, are needed to explain alcohol's effect on the dynamics of binocular rivalry.
Subjectacute alcohol effect