Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery Shows How Brain "Fills In Blanks" To Help Us See

Date:
June 2, 2000
Source:
University Of Toronto
Summary:
Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered how the brain helps us see and interact with objects by filling in missing information, a discovery that could have implications for artifical intelligence.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered how the brain helps us see and interact with objects by filling in missing information, according to a study published in the June issue of Current Biology.

Because most of what people see is often blocked by other objects, the visual information received by the brain is usually incomplete. "People take perception for granted because it seems so instant and automatic to us," says Allison Sekuler, associate professor of psychology at U of T and one of the study's senior authors. "What many people don't realize is that the objects we see are not necessarily the same as the information that reaches our eyes, so the brain needs to fill in those gaps of missing information."

Sekuler and her colleagues believe they have found the first direct evidence to prove this theory. The group of researchers, led by PhD students Jason Gold and Richard Murray, asked people to describe various types of shapes presented on different backgrounds made up of visual "noise" - gray, black and white pixels similar to the snow on a de-tuned television. The square shapes were either real, illusory, blocked or fragmented.

Because the objects were difficult to see, sometimes they appeared fat or thin, depending on the background noise. (The sides of fat objects bend outward while sides of thin objects bend inward.) By averaging the luminance of the visual noises that led to fat or thin responses, the researchers determined which parts of the stimulus were important for these judgments.

Not surprisingly, the researchers say, when there really were contours in the shape that made it thin or fat, people used information around the location of these defining lines in making the shape discrimination. "Amazingly however, we found that people used information from exactly the same locations even when the contours in those locations were hidden or missing altogether. In other words, people relied on contours that were not really there, but that had been constructed by their brains," says Gold, whose thesis is looking at the mechanisms underlying visual perception.

"If you didn't have the brain filling in all of this missing information, every time you looked at an object from a slightly different view, it would be a different object and that would be very confusing and difficult to cope with," says Patrick Bennett, associate professor of psychology at U of T and the study's other senior author. "This filling in gives some consistency and continuity to the world."

In addition to helping us understand how our brains are constantly constructing the visual world, the researchers believe there may be other practical applications for this discovery. "You may not need a key to get into your house one day if a computer recognizes you and lets you in," Sekuler says. "The problem is, if you're wearing glasses or have a fresh scar, the computer won't recognize you as easily as another human would. Once we understand what makes the human brain so efficient at discriminating one shape from another, we can use this knowledge in developing efficient artificial intelligence systems."

The next step for the researchers will be to determine where in the brain this is happening. The group also intends to examine how the information we use differs in different populations, like people who have suffered strokes whose perception of the world is different and who may not therefore fill in the blanks in the same way. This study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

CONTACT:
Steven de Sousa
U of T Public Affairs
(416) 978-5949
steven.desousa@utoronto.ca
http://www.newsandevents.utoronto.ca


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Toronto. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Toronto. "Discovery Shows How Brain "Fills In Blanks" To Help Us See." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000601164617.htm>.
University Of Toronto. (2000, June 2). Discovery Shows How Brain "Fills In Blanks" To Help Us See. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000601164617.htm
University Of Toronto. "Discovery Shows How Brain "Fills In Blanks" To Help Us See." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000601164617.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins