Print 12 comment(s) - last by SlyNine.. on Jan 19 at 11:34 AM

Study shows that the brain helps improve accuracy in identifying object by shifting visual attention before our eyes even move

Researchers from the University of Paris Descartes, New York University's Department of Psychology and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich have found that the brain is capable of shifting visual attention before our eyes even move to the next object we're about to see. 

Martin Rolfs, co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow in New York University's Department of Psychology, along with a team of researchers from the University of Paris Descartes and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, have discovered that the brain can predict the outcome of our eye movements based on what we are about to see. 

To take in new visual information, our eyes jump about three times per second in order to capture different views of our surroundings. Each of these jumps to process new views is sent to the retina, which is a layer of visual receptors located on the back of our eyes. But humans do not see the world in quick jumps like clicks of a camera. Instead, we see a smooth, stable world with gentle transitions from one image to the next. This is because the brain shifts visual attention immediately before the eye movement in order to "track targets and prepare for actions toward the these target's locations following the eye movement." 

To test this, researchers experimented with human volunteers. The volunteers were asked to track different objects with their eyes, which would require them to make rapid eye movements from one object to the next within their field of vision

The objects were six grey squares placed strategically throughout the volunteer's field of vision. Five of the six grey squares had vertical lines on them while only one had a tilted slash. The volunteers were asked to identify the tilted slash amongst those with vertical lines, and while making these eye movements, researchers recorded and gauged each volunteer's ability to identify the slash. They paid attention to which locations were given more attention just before the actual eye movement as well. 

"Our results show that shifts of visual attention precede rapid eye movements, improving accuracy in identifying objects in the visual field and speeding our future actions to those objects," said Rolfs. 

This study was published in Nature Neuroscience.

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By Solandri on 1/12/2011 5:20:02 PM , Rating: 2
Did they think they might find the eye muscles were in control of our brain in normal visual circumstance? Or maybe the eyes had their own brain that did the processing that controlled them?

As a matter of fact, your eyes do a considerable amount of signal processing on the visual data they get before transmitting it to the brain. There are receptors in the eye sensitive to motion, sensitive to lines, etc. Your brain in essence gets a pre-processed version of what your eyes see, not a raw data dump.

I don't believe they actually control the eye muscles in a way which overrides the brain, but my point is that your brain is not some master CPU while the rest of your body is simply a passive slave mechanism. There is a lot of distributed processing going on in your body and senses.

Will they also soon tell us that my brain decides how to move my fingers before my fingers actually move in normal operation? Or that my index finger's movement in being planned or activated while, gasp, moving my middle finger!

You'd be surprised. A good chunk of the neural processing for movement and reaction of the lower extremities is actually handled by your spinal column, not your brain. That test the doctors do where they hit your knee with a hammer and your leg kicks up? That's 100% spinal column.

By mindless1 on 1/13/2011 7:35:38 AM , Rating: 2
This is not correct, your brain receives the raw data dump. That receptors are sensitive to certain things is innate in their structure, processing requires logic true/false type decisions which these receptors do not make, they are always true true true true which your brain processes to the extent that it is either getting a "true" or it isn't.

By SlyNine on 1/19/2011 11:34:48 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be so sure about the brains role. Muscle memory is a huge part.

By SiliconJon on 1/14/2011 11:39:36 AM , Rating: 2
I meant to exclude reflex movements from "normal operations".

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