New research has found that the brain continues to accept ambiguous visual information about an object in motion even when it conflicts with more reliable information that we can touch. The studies, which appear in the June 7 issue of the journal Psychological Science and the forthcoming June issue of the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, provide new insights into the way the brain blends and balances information from different senses.
Credit: Daniel Dubois / Vanderbilt University
The research, conducted by Vanderbilt psychologists Randolph Blake, Centennial Professor of Psychology, and Thomas W. James and Kenith V. Sobel, research associates, found that the region of the brain that specializes in processing visual movement-the middle temporal visual center, or MT-also responds to motion that we feel. But they were surprised to discover that when individuals were presented with an ambiguous visual image and were able to touch that object, their brains did not fuse the visual and touch inputs into a single, accurate representation. Instead, the researchers found that the brain keeps the two inputs separate and accepts a degree of "cognitive dissonance" when the two conflict.
"This suggests that there is naturally a higher level of inconsistency between seeing and feeling something moving than there is between seeing and feeling somethings shape," says James.
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