Scientists studying brain process involved in sight have found the visual cortex also uses information gleaned from the ears as well as the eyes when viewing the world.
They suggest this auditory input enables the visual system to predict incoming information and could confer a survival advantage.
Professor Lars Muckli, of the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, who led the research, said: "Sounds create visual imagery, mental images, and automatic projections.
"So, for example, if you are in a street and you hear the sound of an approaching motorbike, you expect to see a motorbike coming around the corner. If it turned out to be a horse, you'd be very surprised."
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved conducting five different experiments using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the activity in the early visual cortex in 10 volunteer subjects.
In one experiment they asked the blindfolded volunteers to listen to three different natural sounds – birdsong, traffic noise and a talking crowd.
Using a special algorithm that can identify unique patterns in brain activity, the researchers were able to discriminate between the different sounds being processed in early visual cortex activity.
A second experiment revealed even imagined images, in the absence of both sight and sound, evoked activity in the early visual cortex.
Lars Muckli said: "This research enhances our basic understanding of how interconnected different regions of the brain are. The early visual cortex hasn't previously been known to process auditory information, and while there is some anatomical evidence of interconnectedness in monkeys, our study is the first to clearly show a relationship in humans.
"In future we will test how this auditory information supports visual processing, but the assumption is it provides predictions to help the visual system to focus on surprising events which would confer a survival advantage.
"This might provide insights into mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or autism and help us understand how sensory perceptions differ in these individuals."
The project was part of a five-year study funded by a €1.5m European Research Council consolidator grant entitled 'Brain reading of contextual feedback and predictions', and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
The researchers will explore more sounds to find out how precise predictive coding in the brain can be.
Media enquiries: email@example.com / +447854 034 342 / +44141 330 3535
Stuart Forsyth | Eurek Alert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering