When dissimilar images are presented to the two eyes, they compete for perceptual dominance so that only one image is visible at a time while the other one is suppressed. Neural correlates of such binocular rivalry have been found at multiple stages of visual processing, including striate and extrastriate visual cortex. However, little is known about the role of subcortical processing during binocular rivalry. Here we used fMRI to measure neural activity in the human LGN while subjects viewed contrast-modulated gratings presented dichoptically. Neural activity in the LGN correlated strongly with the subjects' reported percepts, such that activity increased when a high-contrast grating was perceived and decreased when a low-contrast grating was perceived. Our results provide evidence for a functional role of the LGN in binocular rivalry and suggest that the LGN, traditionally viewed as the gateway to the visual cortex, may be an early gatekeeper of visual awareness.
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