Looking for something? Surprising number of neurons help find it

July 18, 2007

A person searching for a ripe tomato at the grocery store is more likely to notice apples, strawberries and other red fruits as well, according to a new study that measured changes in blood flow in the brain. The researchers also discovered that more neurons are called into action to help the eyes find a particular object than has previously been documented.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers observed systematic changes in brain activity when participants focused on observing a certain object in motion, no matter where it appeared in their visual field.

"This increased activity in the brain is what helps you find objects you are looking for, even when you don't know exactly where the objects are," said UC Irvine cognitive scientist John Serences.

The study, co-authored by Serences and University of Washington associate professor Geoffrey Boynton, is published in the July 18 online edition of the journal Neuron.

In their study, researchers presented participants with a computer display of objects moving in different directions. Participants were asked to pay attention to objects moving only in a particular direction (for example, the object moving to the left). Using noninvasive fMRI to indirectly measure neural activity, researchers demonstrate that patterns of brain activity change when people pay attention to objects moving in different directions.

In addition, paying attention to one direction of motion makes the brain more responsive to other objects moving in that direction, no matter where the other objects appear in their visual field - a phenomenon that has not previously been documented.

This research may enhance scientists' understanding of problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, while also explaining how healthy people's brains create awareness of their surroundings.

"By gaining a more thorough understanding of how a healthy human brain functions, we will be better equipped in the future to recognize, diagnose and treat abnormalities within the brain," Serences says.

Source: UCI

Explore further: Chameleons' swiveling eyes not as independent as once thought

Related Stories

Sustainability matters, even in complex networks

August 11, 2015

You're driving down the highway in your Honda Civic. You press the pedal to the metal and the speedometer flips to 90 as you torque into the fast lane. How much effort have you, and the car, expended?

What neuroscience can learn from computer science

August 10, 2015

What do computers and brains have in common? Computers are made to solve the same problems that brains solve. Computers, however, rely on a drastically different hardware, which makes them good at different kinds of problem ...

A model for ageing

August 7, 2015

Life is short, especially for the killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri: It lives for only a few months and then its time is up. During that short lifespan it passes through every phase of life from larva to venerable old fish. ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.