When two visual patterns moving in opposite directions are superimposed, they appear to be at different depths and to slide over each other. Because the stimulus does not specify the depth-order between the surfaces, this transparent motion perception is essentially ambiguous. With prolonged observation, the perceived depth-order of the two moving surfaces reverses spontaneously. In the present study, the correlation between the perceived direction of transparent motion and optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) was examined. While viewing superimposed random-dot patterns moving in opposite horizontal or vertical directions, subjects attempted to fixate the center of the stimulus, while paying attention to either the near or far depth plane, and reported any changes of the direction of surface-motion at the attended depth. Even with attention focused on a particular depth, the spontaneous reversal of transparent motion perception still occurred. This indicates that the perceptual reversal may reflect a preattentive mechanism for depth-from-motion. Furthermore, the OKN slow-phase tended to be in the same direction as the perceived motion of the surface at the attended depth. These results support the idea that the mechanisms for OKN maintenance are sensitive to perception of depth-from-motion and, therefore, cortically mediated.
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