Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Dartmouth scientists shed light on how our brains see the world


A Dartmouth study reveals how the brain understands motion and still objects to help us navigate our complex visual world.

The findings have a number of potential practical applications, ranging from treatment for motion blindness to improved motion recognition algorithms used in airport and other public security systems.

Zhengang Lu, a doctoral student in Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College, and his colleagues have revealed how the brain understands motion and still objects to help us navigate our complex visual world.

Credit: Zhengang Lu

The study appears in the journal Neuroimage. A PDF is available on request.

"By analyzing how terrorists would move in public spaces and incorporating this action signature into pattern recognition algorithm, better accuracy of recognition of terrorist suspects may be achieved than with facial-feature based recognition algorithm," says co-lead author Zhengang Lu, a doctoral student in Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Our brain's visual system consists of a "where" (dorsal) pathway and a "what" (ventral) pathway. A normally function brain can imply motion from still pictures, such as the speed line in cartoons being interpreted as motion streaks of a still object. However, patients with lesions to the dorsal pathway know where objects are but have difficulty recognizing them, while patients with lesions to the ventral pathway have trouble recognizing objects but no problem locating them.

To survive in a dynamic world, the sensitivity of the human visual system for detecting motion cues is a critical evolutionary advantage. For example, people with akinetopsia (the inability to perceive motion) have difficulty crossing the street because they can't gauge oncoming traffic -- they see moving objects as a series of stills, like an object moving under strobe lights. People with object agnosia (the inability to recognize objects) have difficulty navigating everyday life.

The Dartmouth researchers studied neural activity to understand how the brain processes motion in still pictures of animate and inanimate objects. Their findings showed that the brain may process motion differently based on whether it is animate motion or inanimate motion. This suggests the brain not only categorizes objects into animate versus inanimate, but it knows the location of objects based on whether they are animate or inanimate.

"Our findings suggest the brain's two visual pathways interact with each other instead of being separate when processing motion and objects," Lu says. "To fully understand a complex scene when multiple objects moving at different speed, the brain combines the motion signal with the knowledge of how a particular object will move in the world. Our results might not be able to provide treatment directly, but they suggest that treatment for people with motion blindness and object agnosia should consider the functional interaction between these two pathways."


The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Available to comment are co-lead authors Zhengang Lu at and Assistant Professor Ming Meng at

Broadcast studios: Dartmouth has TV and radio studios available for interviews. For more information, visit:

Media Contact

John Cramer


John Cramer | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>