'Curve ball' wins international illusion contest

May 26, 2009

Science has proven what baseball players have known for more than a hundred years, the curve ball is more powerful than the brain.

At the fifth annual international Best Visual of the Year Contest, first place went to a mind-boggling entry called "The Break of the Curve Ball." The entry submitted from a team of academics led by an American University professor, challenges the human visual system and brain to predict the movement of a spinning disk. The illusion is available at www.illusioncontest.neuralcorrelate.com.

The popular illusion contest is led by two visual at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde and Dr. Stephen Macknik launched the contest five years ago as part of their ongoing research into the human brain's relationship to .

"As scientists and medical researchers, we learn from these visual illusions every year. The knowledge that we will eventually get from studying the 'Curve Ball' illusion may be applied throughout our research and far beyond baseball," says Martinez-Conde, who heads the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at Barrow.

The contest results were announced this month at the annual Vision Sciences Society meeting where more than 1,000 attendees voted on the finalists. Sent from around the world, this year's entrees included illusions from artists, academics, scientists and even a Microsoft engineer.

The creators of 'The Break of the Curve Ball' illusion suggest that the perceived "break" may be caused by the batter's transition from using his central visual system to his peripheral visual system. Like a curveball, the spinning disk which is shown in the illusion appears to abruptly change direction when an observer switches from central to peripheral viewing.

Macknik who heads the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at Barrow says the scientific explanation of the illusion may lie in the spinning motion of the ball and the eyes inclination to look at the ball's outer edges as it nears the batter.

"As the curve ball moves closer to the batter, the batter's mind is tricked because the eye begins looking at the spinning ball's peripheral which makes it only appear to be curving dramatically," suggests Macknik. "The great hitters in the game have learned to not listen to their minds when they are hitting a curve ball. They listen to their experience, not their ."

Martinez-Conde and Macknik have a bold and unusual scientific approach to understanding perceptual puzzles and recently have been working with several well-known Las Vegas magicians to help advance science's understanding of the relationship between vision and the brain.

More information: illusioncontest.neuralcorrelate.com/cat/top-10-finalists/2009/#post-1074

Source: St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center

Explore further: Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Best Visual Illusion of the Year: How a Curveball Works

May 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Visual illusions sometimes seem to have a magical element to them, but they're actually just the brain's way of interpreting reality. In an effort to promote public knowledge of cognitive ...

Barrow scientists work their magic

Aug 19, 2008

Two neuroscientists at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center are turning magic tricks into science. Stephen Macknik, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology; and ...

Optical illusions: caused by eye or brain?

Nov 11, 2008

When viewing the famous optical illusion painting Enigma by Isia Leviant, many people claim to see motion within the colored circles moving against the black and white striped background. Although this optica ...

The ghostly gaze of science

May 28, 2008

An award-winning visual illusion developed by university psychologists will be shown as part of this year’s Glasgow Science Festival on 15 June.

Recommended for you

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

Apr 18, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Apr 17, 2014

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

Apr 17, 2014

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

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.