Neuroscientists demonstrate link between brainwave acticity and visual perception

Apr 02, 2009

Can we always see what is in front of us? According to Dr. Tony Ro, a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at The City College of New York (CCNY), the answer is "no." New research published in "The Journal of Neuroscience" by Professor Ro and colleagues from the University of Illinois demonstrates that the brain cannot detect images when brainwave activity is in a trough.

"We may have our eyes open, but we sometimes miss seeing things," Professor Ro said. "When the brain is in a state of readiness, you see; when it is not, you don't see."

Brainwave activity has peaks and troughs that can occur around 10 times a second, he explained. In their research, Professor Ro and his colleagues demonstrated how the phase of the brainwave or alpha wave can reliably predict visual detection.

Subjects were shown a faint image of a dot on a computer screen and asked to indicate whether they saw the image by pushing a button. Subsequently, the dot was masked making it more difficult to see. "We tried to see whether there was variability in people's ability to see the image," he said. "When we presented the dots with masks sometimes people saw it and sometimes they didn't."

The research has potential applications in improving safety. For example, automobile accidents often occur because drivers miss seeing something, even if for a split second, he explained.

"With brain sensors we might be able to know when people will actually miss seeing something. By being able to predict whether or not someone will see something, we should be able to implement better ways of delivering information to people to ensure that they will detect it. This might then enhance safety, reduce errors, and prevent mishaps that frequently occur because people fail to see something that is right in front of them."

Professor Ro said future research will investigate what occurs when images are flashed by a strobe light at intervals to match these brainwave frequencies.

Source: City College of New York

Explore further: Long-term effects of battle-related 'blast plus impact' concussive TBI in US military

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

People identify fearful faces before happy ones

Oct 19, 2007

A new study proves that the brain becomes aware of fearful faces more quickly than faces showing other emotions: a capability that may have evolved to direct attention to potential threats.

Why we learn from our mistakes

Jul 02, 2007

Psychologists from the University of Exeter have identified an 'early warning signal' in the brain that helps us avoid repeating previous mistakes. Published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, their research identi ...

Recommended for you

Turning off depression in the brain

17 hours ago

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Rapid whole-brain imaging with single cell resolution

18 hours ago

A major challenge of systems biology is understanding how phenomena at the cellular scale correlate with activity at the organism level. A concerted effort has been made especially in the brain, as scientists are aiming to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.