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Ambiguous figures and binding: EEG frequency modulations during multistable perception


  • Research was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (BA 877-16).

Address correspondence to: Jürgen Kornmeier, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Wilhelmstraße 3a, 79098 Freiburg, Germany. E-mail:


Ambiguous figures induce sudden transitions between rivaling percepts. We investigated electroencephalogram frequency modulations of accompanying change-related de- and rebinding processes. Presenting the stimuli discontinously, we synchronized perceptual reversals with stimulus onset, which served as a time reference for averaging. The resultant gain in temporal resolution revealed a sequence of time–frequency correlates of the reversal process. Most conspicuous was a transient right-hemispheric gamma modulation preceding endogenous reversals by at least 200 ms. No such modulation occurred with exogenously induced reversals of unambiguous stimulus variants. Post-onset components were delayed for ambiguous compared to unambiguous stimuli. The time course of oscillatory activity differed in several respects from predictions based on binding-related hypotheses. The gamma modulation preceding endogenous reversals may indicate an unstable brain state, ready to switch.