Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Now you see it, now you don’t: ’Change blindness’ isn’t magic


A team of scientists at UCL (University College London) has discovered why we often miss major changes in our surroundings - such as a traffic light turning green when we’re listening to the radio. Our inability to notice large changes in a visual scene is a phenomenon often exploited by magicians - but only now can scientists put their finger on the exact part of the brain that is so often deceived.

The UCL team shows, in a research paper published in the September issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex (which goes online on 24th August) that the part of the brain called the parietal cortex, the area responsible for concentration, is also critical to our ability to detect changes. The exact critical spot lies just a few centimetres above and behind the right ear – the area many people scratch when concentrating.

Using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), the team switched off the parietal cortex part of the brain temporarily by applying magnetic stimulation to the head via a magnetic coil which produces small electrical currents to the brain. Without help from this region of the brain, subjects failed to notice even major visual changes– in this case a change of a person’s face.

In previous experiments using brain scanning (functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI), the team led by Professor Nilli Lavie at the UCL Department of Psychology, discovered that detection of visual changes was not only correlated with activity in conventional visual areas of the brain but also with activity in the parietal cortex.

But, until this experiment, when the team actually switched off the parietal cortex using TMS, they didn’t know that noticing change critically depends on activity in the parietal cortex. When that region of the brain was effectively switched off, ’change blindness’ (a failure to notice large changes in a visual scene) occurred.

Professor Lavie said: "Because the parietal lobe is not part of the visual cortex it was at first surprising to find that activity in the parietal lobe is critical for visual awareness. We have always known that the parietal cortex was responsible for concentrating. But it was a surprise to find out it is also important for detecting visual changes in a scene. The finding that this region of the brain has both these functions, concentration and visual awareness, explains why we can be so easily deceived by, say, a magicians’ trick. When we’re concentrating so hard on something that our processing capacity is at its limits, the parietal cortex is not available to pay attention to new things and even dramatic changes can go unnoticed. If you’re concentrating on what the magician’s left hand is doing, you won’t notice what the right hand is doing."

Alex Brew | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>