Study sheds light on first impressions
News Jun 23, 2015
A study of how people can quickly spot animals by sight is helping uncover the workings of the human brain
Scientists examined why volunteers who were shown hundreds of pictures - some with animals and some without - were able to detect animals in as little as one-tenth of a second.
They found that one of the first parts of the brain to process visual information - the primary visual cortex - can control this fast response.
More complex parts of the brain are not required at this stage, contrary to what was previously thought.
The findings suggest that when people look at a scene for the first time, the brain’s immediate responses can categorize it based on small areas of shape and texture.
Other parts of the brain then use more complex processing, which takes longer, to work out the objects being seen.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Aix Marseille Université used data from previous studies in which volunteers looked at hundreds of images.
They ran computer programs to mimic and analyze the processing of the primary visual cortex as the images were viewed.
Image search tools
They showed that the program could quickly distinguish images with animals, which have more curved edges and textures, from images of outdoor scenes, which have longer, straighter edges on average.
The discovery could help inform the development of image-based internet search engines, by enabling computer programs to classify images according to their geometry.
It was previously thought that complex parts of the brain were required for analyzing images, with categories - such as animals - only being detectable at a late stage in the process.
Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Laurent U. Perrinet, James A. Bednar. Edge co-occurrences can account for rapid categorization of natural versus animal images. Scientific Reports, Published June 22 2015. doi: 10.1038/srep11400
When infants are playing with objects, their early attempts to pay attention to things are accompanied by bursts of high-frequency activity in their brain. But what happens when parents play together with them? New research shows for the first time that when adults are engaged in joint play together with their infant, their own brains show similar bursts of high-frequency activity.
Many species of mammals have evolved what appear to be paradoxical behaviours towards their young. Like humans, most exhibit nurturing, protective behaviours, and in some circumstances even act as surrogate parents. However, virgin males often engage in infanticide as a strategy to propagate their own genes. How are these conflicting social behaviours controlled?