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.

Related Articles


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 January 29, 2015 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 January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Researchers at University of Texas at Austin found a link between binge-watching TV shows and feelings of loneliness and depression. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

BuzzFeed (Jan. 28, 2015) "No, I&apos;m not mad. Why, are you mad?" Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
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