In an article in the April-June 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind called “The Power of Symmetry,” by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran, we learned that through our own subjective experience of visual stimuli, we can verify the brain’s tendency to impose symmetry on what we see, and through a deliberate method of presenting specific visual patterns, researchers can evoke the brain’s inclination to make sense out of visual patterns. Our knowledge of how the brain functions enhances our understanding today of how visual stimuli is interpreted with regard to imposing symmetry. What struck me about the implications of the research conducted in the article, aside from the insightful look at how the brain processes visual cues, was the mention several times of how with “intense mental effort,” we can briefly override the brain’s “natural preference” for symmetry, when interpreting “apparent motion.” Since we frequently experience the visual aspects of the world without consciously being required to make a deliberate mental effort to interpret them, our natural inclinations generally prevail, resulting in what the Ramachandrans described as “a global imposition of coherence.”
While the precise neural mechanisms supporting our conscious and unconscious brain activities are still not well understood, the ability of an individual to exercise “intense mental effort” to override the brain’s natural inclinations is, for me, a clear indication that whatever mechanisms are engaged in ANY brain process may be subject to disruption or alteration with adequate effort, and suggests to me also that a comprehensive explanation of consciousness itself may include influences not necessarily attributable to specific neural mechanisms!
Dr. Pawan Sinha, PhD in the Summer 2011 Issue of Brain World Magazine – article by Lauren Marks
See full article here: http://brainworldmagazine.com/2011/06/qa-with-dr-pawan-sinha-phd/
“There is a very influential idea in the domain of visual neuroscience that essentially says that information from the eyes is not processed as a monolithic whole, but rather it’s split up into different kinds of attributes. There’s color, there’s motion, luminance, high-resolution information, low-resolution information. And the belief is that these different attributes are being processed by different groups of neurons. The outputs of these neurons are eventually combined by some process that still remains mysterious. We don’t really know how that combination comes about.”
It is wonderfully refreshing to read in a prominent magazine dealing with neuroscience, a statement by an “associate professor of vision and computational neuroscience at MIT,” which acknowledges that there are some aspects of the way our brains work that are still mysterious. What we have learned over the decades that scientists have dedicated to figuring out the brain is enormously interesting and has given us many benefits in treatment options for all sorts of pathologies and traumatic injuries, but the brain is so complex and so essential to the ability to figure itself out that we sometimes lose sight of the enormity of the task, and the far-reaching implications of each new discovery.
More to come….