Binocular rivalry has been studied for well over 100 years. Much is known about how the brain alternates perception between two different images presented separately, one to each eye. Recently, there has been great interest in potential clinical applications of binocular rivalry, particularly in psychiatric and neurologic populations. This was prompted by discovery in the late 1990’s by BRO project leader, Dr Steven Miller, and Professor Jack Pettigrew, that binocular rivalry in subjects with the heritable psychiatric condition, bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), is different to that observed in non-clinical subjects. The finding has been replicated by independent research groups in Japan, New Zealand and China.
Miller, Pettigrew and BRO collaborators, Nicholas Martin and Margie Wright, also showed using twin studies that the rate of binocular rivalry is under substantial genetic control. Together the findings raised the possibility that binocular rivalry rate might be a biomarker (or ‘endophenotype’) for bipolar disorder that could be used to improve diagnosis of the disorder and to help find genes that predispose to the disorder.
To assess the potential clinical and genetic applications of the binocular rivalry test requires studies with very large sample sizes, of the order of thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of participants. The logistics and costs of achieving such sample sizes are prohibitive and a new model of binocular rivalry testing is therefore required. This led to development of the BRO website. This online platform for binocular rivalry testing will enable collection of large datasets for clinical and genetic research.
The model operates by the BRO team collaborating with existing research projects that have already studied their research participants in detail. These teams will mail to their participants specialised glasses and a unique code for accessing the BRO test, which the participants can then perform at their convenience in their homes. This process substantially reduces the cost and resources required for supervised laboratory-based testing.
The BRO test has been carefully developed to provide reliable binocular rivalry data collection on any home-based desktop and laptop computers in the absence of direct supervision. It also includes catch trials to ensure the accuracy of participant responses. The online process guides participants through the test and collects relevant information such as visual acuity and simple clinical state ratings. All response data are collected centrally via the secure BRO website, and are stored separately from any personal or identifying data.
Researchers who wish to utilise the BRO test for clinical or genetic studies are welcome to contact project leader, Dr Miller, to discuss either collaborative or independent research (see Contact us).
In addition to large-scale clinical and genetic research, the BRO website also intends to provide the research community with a means for standardised binocular rivalry testing so that results from different clinical and basic science studies may be accurately compared. Standardisation is required because different researchers use different binocular rivalry testing protocols and stimuli, and these differences make it difficult to meaningfully compare results between studies. The BRO test provides standardised binocular rivalry testing to facilitate such comparisons.
Researchers who wish to utilise the standardised BRO test for any research purposes are welcome to contact project leader, Dr Miller, to discuss either collaborative or independent research (see Contact us).