Brain’s Super Sensitivity To Curbs

Admin | Published 2016-08-01 13:02
Study shows the brain is sensitive to visual boundaries In summary, a study carried out at the John Hopkins University has revealed that the human brain relies on barriers such as walls and curbs when directing a person’s navigation of the environment. Researchers at the Institute have been able to pinpoint specific areas of the brain that show sensitivity to the smallest of such boundaries. The researchers found two distinct regions of the brain where one is sensitive to visual boundaries such as vertical walls or curbs. The other area reacts when the visual boundary happens to be substantially tall enough to hinder a person’s movement. The study is available online, but it will also be published on Neuropsychologia’s August issue. According to the author, an assistant professor at the Department of Cognitive Science, Soojin Park, the study shows that there is ecological validity to a boundary (even the smallest one). She also added that how we move about is heavily influenced by the boundaries in our environment, and thus it leads us to inquire the kind of neural mechanism behind it. The study was carried out on 12 individuals who were shown a flat mat with different objects displayed on it, a mat circumvented by a wall and also a mat surrounded by moderate restraint. It was then discovered that the visual areas of the subject’s brains became increasingly responsive in proportion to the increase in size of the boundaries. According to Park, brain activity increases when one sees an edge. Thus, the brain is sensitive to boundaries, and hence they gain importance. She also added that having a three-dimensional vertical structure had some significant because there was no change in response of the brain when they changed how the mat looked, the wall, the curb or even the type of object on display.
One of the regions of the brain that showed a response in the study is the parahippocampal place area. It responds to visual images of scenes/environment as well as places over different objects or faces. When the subjects came across a boundary tall enough to be considered an obstacle, it was the “retrosplenial complex” that reacted to the situation. The study shows that the area is preferentially responsive to scenes. However, the recent study has also demonstrated that the region is essential to spatial navigation as opposed to analyzing individual scenes.   source -
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