Clinical studies of binocular rivalry
During Miller and Pettigrew’s early CVS and rivalry studies, a serendipitous observation was made:
one subject with bipolar disorder (manic depression) had a much slower rate of rivalry than other subjects without this psychiatric disorder. Further investigation of this observation led to the demonstration that indeed the rate of binocular rivalry is slower in bipolar disorder (n=30) than in controls (n=63; Pettigrew & Miller, 1998). A second study was conducted, in a separate group of bipolar disorder subjects and controls, and in a small group of subjects with schizophrenia and subjects with major depression, and this study showed that again, subjects with bipolar disorder had rivalry rates significantly slower than controls,
and additionally, that subjects with schizophrenia and subjects with major depression did not significantly differ from controls (Miller et al., 2003). This work became the subject of granted national and international patents to the University of Queensland (inventors: J. D. Pettigrew and S. M. Miller).
These findings were consistent with early-20th-century reports of slow ambiguous figure rivalry in bipolar disorder but not in schizophrenia. In a recent study from Oxford University, Krug et al. (2008) independently replicated Pettigrew and Miller’s finding using ambiguous structure-from-motion stimuli. These are very slow-switching (low stimulus-strength) stimuli, and thus the separation between the bipolar and control groups was not high (though was nevertheless statistically significant). As explained in Miller et al. (2003), rivalry stimuli with highstimulus-strength are likely to best separate clinical groups from control groups.
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