Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seeing is a matter of experience

22.05.2014

Neuroscientists of Jena University (Germany) discover adaptation mechanisms of the brain when perceiving letters of the alphabet

The headlights – two eyes, the radiator cowling – a smiling mouth: This is how our brain sometimes creates a face out of a car front. The same happens with other objects: in house facades, trees or stones – a “human face” can often be detected as well.


Neuroscientists of Jena University (Germany) discover adaptation mechanisms of the brain when perceiving letters of the alphabet. Photo: Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU

Prof. Dr. Gyula Kovács from Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) knows the reason why. “Faces are of tremendous importance for human beings,” the neuroscientist explains. That’s why in the course of the evolution our visual perception has specialized in the recognition of faces in particular. “This sometimes even goes as far as us recognizing faces when there are none at all.”

Until now the researchers assumed that this phenomenon is an exception that can only be applied to faces. But, as Prof. Kovács and his colleague Mareike Grotheer were able to point out in a new study: these distinct adaptation mechanisms are not only restricted to the perception of faces. In the “The Journal of Neuroscience“ the Jena researchers have proved that the effect can also occur in the perception of letters. (DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5326-13.2014).

The basis for this is the neuronal plasticity of the brain, which allows us to adapt to environmental stimuli. “The more often we are exposed to a certain stimulus, the quicker we perceive it,” Mareike Grotheer, doctoral candidate in Kovác‘s team says. This “training effect” could be measured directly in the brain. As magnetic resonance imaging shows, environmental stimuli which the brain has already adapted to, lead to distinctly lower responses in the processing areas. “This might sound paradoxical at first, but it only means that the brain arrives at the same result with less effort,” Kovács points out.

This adaptation mechanism is particularly pronounced in situations when we expect a very specific stimulus. “Our past experiences are essential in shaping our sense of perception,” Kovács stresses. For the recognition of characters experience also plays a decisive role. Practically we are surrounded by characters everywhere: in the media, in the streets, on everyday objects.

In their study the researchers showed different characters to test persons and recorded via functional magnetic resonance imaging the brain activity which was set into motion by the process of seeing. “The recordings clearly show that the brain activity adapts to the visual perception of characters in the course of the measurements,” Kovács says. However, this only applies to correct roman characters. The Jena researches were not able to detect a similar adaptation in a parallel test series with false, altered characters.

It stands to reason, Prof. Kovács sums up, that the reading and writing experience of a test person is responsible for this adaptation. It is not yet clear, if the adaptability of the brain can be specifically trained to the recognition of characters or if it is the result of evolutionary development processes – which is the case with the recognition of faces: This has to be shown in future research.

Original Publication:
Grotheer M, Kovács G. Repetition probability effects depend on prior experiences. The Journal of Neuroscience 2014 (DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5326-13.2014)

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Gyula Kovács
Institute of Psychology
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Leutragraben 1, 07743 Jena
Germany
Phone: ++49 3641 / 945936
Email: gyula.kovacs[at]uni-jena.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uni-jena.de

Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: DOI Faces Neuroscience Phone activity experiences matter objects stimulus

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rapid adaptation to a changing environment
28.04.2016 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Tiny microscopes reveal hidden role of nervous system cells
28.04.2016 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

Im Focus: New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin glass is up and coming

As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.

Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...

Im Focus: Measuring the heat capacity of condensed light

Liquid water is a very good heat storage medium – anyone with a Thermos bottle knows that. However, as soon as water boils or freezes, its storage capacity drops precipitously. Physicists at the University of Bonn have now observed very similar behavior in a gas of light particles. Their findings can be used, for example, to produce ultra-precise thermometers. The work appears in the prestigious technical journal "Nature Communications".

Water vapor becomes liquid under 100 degrees Celsius – it condenses. Physicists speak of a phase transition. In this process, certain thermodynamic...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Possible Extragalactic Source of High-Energy Neutrinos

28.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

University of Illinois researchers create 1-step graphene patterning method

28.04.2016 | Materials Sciences

Rapid adaptation to a changing environment

28.04.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>