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: Steering the filaments of the developing brain

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

Steering the filaments of the developing brain

8 minutes ago

During brain development, nerve fibers grow and extend to form brain circuits. This growth is guided by molecular cues (Fig. 1), but exactly how these cues guide axon extension has been unclear. Takuro Tojima ...

Do we really only use 10% of our brain?

58 minutes ago

As the new film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman is set to be released in the cinemas this week, I feel I should attempt to dispel the unfounded premise of the film – that we only use 10% of our brains ...

Birthday matters for wiring-up the brain's vision centers

21 hours ago

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have evidence suggesting that neurons in the developing brains of mice are guided by a simple but elegant birth order rule that allows them to find ...

User comments : 0