Learning to see consciously
Max Planck scientists show how flexibly the brain processes images
Our brains process many more stimuli than we become aware of. Often images enter our brain without being noticed: visual information is being processed, but does not reach consciousness, that is, we do not have an impression of it. Then, what is the difference between conscious and unconscious perception, and can both forms of perception be changed through practice? These questions are important not only for basic research, but also for the treatment of patients with perceptual deficits due to brain lesions e.g. following a stroke.
Scientists at the MPI for Brain Research in Frankfurt/Main could now show that seeing can be trained. Their tests revealed that the brain regions underlying the learning effects on conscious perception are different than the ones underlying the learning effects on the mere processing of stimuli.
Training for conscious perception: A. Subjects are presented with geometric forms in rapid succession. After 10 milliseconds the forms were masked to render them invisible. The task of the subjects was to judge their visibility. B. Location of form and mask on the screen. C. A square and a diamond serve as the visual cues, a star as a mask. © PNAS Early Edition doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009147108