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Optical Illusions: Why Your Brain Sees Still Pictures as Moving Optical Illusions: Why Your Brain Sees Still Pictures as Moving

Optical Illusions: Why Your Brain Sees Still Pictures as Moving

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Optical illusions have fascinated people for decades, gaining more attention than ever in the social media era. As you’ve scrolled through your feed, you’ve likely seen a picture of a stationary object that seems to move in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, known as an optical illusion. The formal name for this type of image is “Pinna-Brelstaff figure.”

Scientists may be a little closer to understanding how the mind tricks us into believing these still objects are in motion. A team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences had already identified the area of the brain that creates that illusion, so they set out to get to the “why.” Looking at male rhesus macaques, which process the illusion similarly to people, they found cells within that part of the brain that perceive the images as being in motion.

The researchers found that seeing a Pinna-Brelstaff figure triggers the part of the brain responsible for detecting when an object is in motion. After about 15 milliseconds, that part of the brain switches off. Details of the study, which were published in JNeurosci, provide a fascinating look at how the brain deciphers illusion versus reality. It also supports something theorized by a Czech scientist more than a century and a half ago: “illusions contain visual truth.”

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Read 835 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 February 2019 08:51
Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and novelist whose work has appeared on NYPost.com, PSMag.com, the Intuit Small Business Blog, and many others. She is the Simon & Schuster author of 8 children's books, including the Piper Morgan chapter book series, 25 Roses, and 30 Days of No Gossip.

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