Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Culture Sculpts Neural Response To Visual Stimuli, New Research Indicates

Date:
May 3, 2007
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Scientists have found that the aging brain reflects cultural differences in the way that it processes visual information. One striking finding was that the object areas of the older East Asian subjects responded much more weakly to novel stimuli (that is, the appearance of new objects in the pictures) than did those same brain regions in the older Americans.

The most striking finding was that the object areas of the older East Asian subjects responded much more weakly to novel stimuli (that is, the appearance of new objects in the pictures) than did those same brain regions in the older Americans.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Researchers in Illinois and Singapore have found that the aging brain reflects cultural differences in the way that it processes visual information. This study appears in the journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience. This paper and another published by the same group in 2006 are the first to demonstrate that culture can alter the brain’s perceptive mechanisms.

Related Articles


The new finding is the result of a collaboration between University of Illiniois psychology professor Denise Park and Michael W. Chee, of the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, SingHealth, in Singapore. Park, Chee and their colleagues conducted an array of cognitive tests on study subjects at their facilities in the U.S. and Singapore, and used identical functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scanners at both sites. Their analysis, of 37 young and old East Asians, and 38 young and old Westerners, found significant cultural differences in how the older adults’ brains responded to visual stimuli.

“These are the first studies to show that culture is sculpting the brain,” said Park, principal investigator on the study. “The effect is seen not so much in structural changes, but at the level of perception.”

Scientists have known for decades that East Asians and Westerners process visual information differently. An analysis published in 1972 noted that East Asians are more likely to pay attention to the context and relationships in a picture than are Westerners, who more often notice physical features or groupings of similar subjects.

More recent research, which analyzed the eye movements of East Asians and Westerners viewing identical images, found that Westerners were more attentive to central, or dominant, objects, while East Asians paid more attention to the background, or scene.

The use of fMRI technology allowed the researchers to determine which brain regions were activated when study subjects contemplated various images.

A 2006 analysis published by Park, Illinois postdoctoral fellow Angela Gutchess and colleagues at the University of Michigan reported differing neural activation patterns in the brains of East Asians and Americans shown identical pictures. The Americans showed more activity in brain regions associated with object processing than the East Asians, whose brains showed more activity in areas involved in processing background information.

The most recent study takes this work further, comparing neural responses to visual stimuli in young and old adults in both cultures. In this analysis, the researchers found equivalence between all four groups (young and old East Asians; young and old Americans) in terms of how they processed background information in the parahippocampal gyrus, a brain region vital to memory encoding and retrieval. As expected, older adults in both cultures exhibited diminished binding processes (the ability to connect a particular object to its background) in the hippocampus, as compared with younger study subjects. The older subjects also exhibited diminished object processing in the lateral occipital complex.

The most striking finding was that the object areas of the older East Asian subjects responded much more weakly to novel stimuli (that is, the appearance of new objects in the pictures) than did those same brain regions in the older Americans. For the older East Asians, a lifetime of enhanced attention to the backgrounds, or context, of pictures eventually showed up as a diminished response in the part of the brain that keeps track of foreground objects.

“These findings demonstrate the malleability of perceptual processes as a result of differences in cultural exposure over time,” the researchers wrote. Park also will present these findings at the May 2007 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Culture Sculpts Neural Response To Visual Stimuli, New Research Indicates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070501115036.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2007, May 3). Culture Sculpts Neural Response To Visual Stimuli, New Research Indicates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070501115036.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Culture Sculpts Neural Response To Visual Stimuli, New Research Indicates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070501115036.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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