PLoS Computational Biology (May 2016)

Canonical Cortical Circuit Model Explains Rivalry, Intermittent Rivalry, and Rivalry Memory.

  • Shashaank Vattikuti,
  • Phyllis Thangaraj,
  • Hua W Xie,
  • Stephen J Gotts,
  • Alex Martin,
  • Carson C Chow

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 5
p. e1004903


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It has been shown that the same canonical cortical circuit model with mutual inhibition and a fatigue process can explain perceptual rivalry and other neurophysiological responses to a range of static stimuli. However, it has been proposed that this model cannot explain responses to dynamic inputs such as found in intermittent rivalry and rivalry memory, where maintenance of a percept when the stimulus is absent is required. This challenges the universality of the basic canonical cortical circuit. Here, we show that by including an overlooked realistic small nonspecific background neural activity, the same basic model can reproduce intermittent rivalry and rivalry memory without compromising static rivalry and other cortical phenomena. The background activity induces a mutual-inhibition mechanism for short-term memory, which is robust to noise and where fine-tuning of recurrent excitation or inclusion of sub-threshold currents or synaptic facilitation is unnecessary. We prove existence conditions for the mechanism and show that it can explain experimental results from the quartet apparent motion illusion, which is a prototypical intermittent rivalry stimulus.