Brain perceives optical illusions as real motion

February 3rd, 2009 - 1:06 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 3 (ANI): Ever wondered why the concentric circles of the famous Rotating Snakes look like theyre moving even when the image is static? Well, Japanese researchers have got the answer for you.

Lead researcher Akiyoshi Kitaoka of Kyoto’’s Ritsumeikan University has found that these optical illusions do more than trick the eye; they may also convince the brain that the graphic is actually moving, but the image is static.

During the study, the team monitored brain activity as participants viewed the Rotating Snakes illusion, where concentric circles appear to rotate continuously.

Prior to the study, scientists believed illusions that simulated movement involved higher-level brain activity the imagination.

However, the new study has found the illusion triggers brain activity generated by a bottom-up process in the visual cortex.

“This is the part of the brain that processes real physical movement,” said research team member Ichiro Kuriki, PhD associate professor, Tohoku University.

“The illusory motion percept is not just the observer’’s imagination,” Kuriki added.

The researchers compared levels of eye movements as participants watched the Rotating Snakes illusion.

When participants moved their eyes while watching the illusion, the study reported higher activity in the motion-perception area of the brain.

Kuriki said the study has ramifications for makers of instrument panels for vehicles, aircraft and other forms of transportation.

“Our findings could be important to the designers of such visual displays, as well as creators of multimedia content online or for film and television,” he added.

The study is published in the Journal of Vision. (ANI)

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