Fluctuations of consciousness, mood, and science: The interhemispheric switch and sticky switch models two decades on

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Science and medicine aim to identify verifiable and replicable truths. However, the paths to such truths are frequently characterized by swinging pendulums of opposing perspectives. This is especially so in human neuroscience and the brain-based clinical sciences, where the target of investigation is the most complex of all biological systems. This article overviews a set of interrelated neuroscientific and clinical hypotheses, models, experiments, and predictions with which I have been involved for the last two decades. Traversing visual neuroscience, consciousness science, genetics, chronobiology, and biological and clinical psychiatry, the work illustrates how developments in science and medicine can occur through a combination of synthesis, serendipity, and experimentation. The article also reflects on doing science with the inimitable John “Jack” Pettigrew, and outlines how Pettigrew and I conceived, proposed, tested, and developed two new scientific models—one on neural mechanisms of binocular rivalry, the other on the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. I also provide an update on various aspects of our models and data, and describe lessons learned from Pettigrew on how perspectives in science exhibit their own fluctuations, ironically like the very phenomena on which we worked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3171-3197
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • binocular rivalry
  • consciousness
  • bipolar disorder
  • interhemispheric switch
  • sticky switch
  • caloric vestibular stimulation
  • bistable oscillator

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