Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How illusions trick the brain: 'Rotating Snakes' appear to dance

Date:
May 1, 2012
Source:
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center
Summary:
New research sheds light on why illusions trick our brains. The study explores the neural bases of illusory motion in Akiyoshi Kitaoka's striking visual illusion known as the "Rotating Snakes." The study shows that tiny eye movements and blinking can make a geometric drawing of "snakes" appear to dance. The results help explain the mystery of how the Rotating Snakes illusion tricks the brain.

This work was created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka in 2003 as an illusion design of the optimized Fraser-Wilcox illusion.

Barrow Neurological Institute researchers Jorge Otero-Millan, Stephen Macknik, and Susana Martinez-Conde share the recent cover of the Journal of Neuroscience in a compelling study into why illusions trick our brains. Barrow is part of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

The study, led by Martinez-Conde's laboratory, explores the neural bases of illusory motion in Akiyoshi Kitaoka's striking visual illusion, known as the "Rotating Snakes." Kitaoka is a Japanese psychology professor who specializes in visual illusions of geometric shapes and motion illusions.

The study shows that tiny eye movements and blinking can make a geometric drawing of "snakes" appear to dance. The results help explain the mystery of how the Rotating Snakes illusion tricks the brain.

"Visual illusions demonstrate the ways in which the brain creates a mental representation that differs from the physical world," says Martinez-Conde. "By studying illusions, we can learn the mechanisms by which the brain constructs our conscious experience of the world."

Earlier studies of the "Rotating Snakes" indicated the perception of motion was triggered by the eyes moving slowly across the illusion. But by tracking eye movements in eight volunteers, the vision neuroscientists found a different explanation: fast eye movements called "saccades," some of which are microscopic and undetectable by the viewer, drive the illusory motion.

Participants lifted a button when the snakes seemed to swirl and pressed down the button when the snakes appeared still. Right before the snakes appeared to move, participants tended to produce blinks, saccades and/or microsaccades, and right before the snakes stopped, participants' eyes tended to remain stable, Otero-Millan, Macknik, and Martinez-Conde report in the April 25th Journal of Neuroscience cover story.

"Studying the mismatch between perception and reality may lead to a deeper understanding of the mind," says Martinez-Conde. "The findings from our recent study may help us to understand the neural bases of motion perception, both in the normal brain, and in patients with brain lesions that affect the perception of motion. This research could aid in the design of neural prosthetics for patients with brain damage."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Otero-Millan, S. L. Macknik, S. Martinez-Conde. Microsaccades and Blinks Trigger Illusory Rotation in the 'Rotating Snakes' Illusion. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012; 32 (17): 6043 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5823-11.2012

Cite This Page:

St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. "How illusions trick the brain: 'Rotating Snakes' appear to dance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501100037.htm>.
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. (2012, May 1). How illusions trick the brain: 'Rotating Snakes' appear to dance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501100037.htm
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. "How illusions trick the brain: 'Rotating Snakes' appear to dance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501100037.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. 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:
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