Brain’s role in producing vision demystified

February 2nd, 2009 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 2 (IANS) A remarkable ‘mind reading’ technique has enabled researchers to find out how the brain combines perceptions of colour and motion, a process much more integrative than previously thought. The discovery, by a team led by Colin Clifford of The Vision Centre and Sydney University, challenges the prevailing scientific view that the brain processes colour and movement in separate ‘modules’ - and then combines them in a third, superior location.

“In fact we have demonstrated that the parts of the brain that recognise colour also to some degree recognise motion, while those that recognise motion also to some extent recognise colour,” Clifford explained.

The ability to rapidly detect and interpret colour and movement is regarded as being among the essential keys to the evolutionary success of primates, including humans.

The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify which parts of the brain became active when their subjects looked at red or green, or motion to the right or left.

This method is popularly referred to as ‘mind reading’ as it enables the team to tell which colour or movement direction the subject is actually looking at - by observing data from their brain, said a Sydney University release.

This research will potentially help medical science to restore brain function in cases where there has been traumatic injury to a vital centre.

“We need to understand how the normally-functioning brain works before we can treat deficits or damage to an injured brain,” Clifford said.

The research by Kiley Seymour and Clifford of Sydney University and Andreas Bartels and Nikos Logothetis of Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics has appeared in Current Biology.

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