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: firstname.lastname@example.org / +447854 034 342 / +44141 330 3535
Stuart Forsyth | Eurek Alert!
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Brain connectivity reveals hidden motives
04.03.2016 | Universität Zürich
R2D2, a joint project to analyze and development high-TRL processes and technologies for manufacture of flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been successfully completed.
In contrast to point light sources like LEDs made of inorganic semiconductor crystals, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are light-emitting surfaces. Their...
High resolution rotational spectroscopy reveals an unprecedented number of conformations of an odorant molecule – a new world record!
In a recent publication in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter...
Strands of cow cartilage substitute for ink in a 3D bioprinting process that may one day create cartilage patches for worn out joints, according to a team of engineers. "Our goal is to create tissue that can be used to replace large amounts of worn out tissue or design patches," said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics. "Those who have osteoarthritis in their joints suffer a lot. We need a new alternative treatment for this."
Cartilage is a good tissue to target for scale-up bioprinting because it is made up of only one cell type and has no blood vessels within the tissue. It is...
Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.
Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...
A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...
28.06.2016 | Event News
09.06.2016 | Event News
24.05.2016 | Event News
28.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2016 | Life Sciences
28.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy