Human beings far outpace computers in their ability to recognize faces and other objects, handling with ease variations in size, color, orientation, lighting conditions and other factors. But how our brains handle this visual processing isn’t known in much detai
Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, taking advantage of brain mapping in patients about to undergo surgery for epilepsy, demonstrate for the first time that the brain, at a very early processing stage, can recognize objects under a variety of conditions very rapidly. The findings were published in the journal Neuron on April 30th.
Visual information flows from the retina of the eye up through a hierarchy of visual areas in the brain, finally reaching the temporal lobe. The temporal lobe, which is ultimately responsible for our visual recognition capacity and our visual perceptions, also signals back to earlier processing areas. This cross-talk solidifies visual perception.
“What hasn’t been entirely clea
“What hasn’t been entirely clear is the relative contribution of these “feed-forward” and “feed-back” signals,” says Gabriel Kreiman, PhD, of the Department of Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital Boston and the study’s senior investigator. “Some people think that if you don’t have feedback, you don’t have vision. But we’ve shown that there is an initial wave of activity that gives a quic
k initial impression that’s already very powerful.”
vision. But we’ve shown that there is an initial wave of activity that gives a quick initial impression that’s already very powerful.”
Although feedback from higher brain areas may occur later and is often important, very fast visual processing would have an evolutionary advantage in critical situations, such as encountering a predator, Kreiman adds.