Questioning Perception with Illusions

Can you spot the difference between the two pictures in the video above? Most of the packed audience at the “The Neuroscience of Illusion” event at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan couldn’t. What if we told you to look for something the men couldn’t leave without? Even with that clue, many attendees were still stumped. One women continued to struggle even when told to look for the man without a hat. If you’re like her and still confused, the engine of the plane is only present in one picture!

What makes it so hard to see what’s right in front of us? The audience’s response to the video illustrates that our field of vision, called the “attention spotlight,” is very narrow, said Apollo Robbins, speaker at the event. Called “The Gentleman Thief,” Robbins is a master pickpocket and illusionist who is said to have picked the pockets of more than 250,000 men and women. When we are focused on something intently, we may miss other important details. Pickpockets manipulate this shortcoming to divert attention and steal, he said.

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Vanishing Perception With Magic

Master magician Prakash Puru took out a silver coin and held it with one hand. He snapped his fingers. In seconds the coin disappeared, only to reappear later by his elbow. Over and over again the coin vanished, much to the delight of a packed audience at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC.

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Tony Ro (left) and Prakash Puru (right). Photo courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art.

Puru was invited to discuss the ways magicians manipulate perception to create illusions with neuroscientist Tony Ro. The Brainwave Series program, “Why Magicians are Master Manipulators,” focused on the neuroscience of perception and how its principles can be used to create magic.

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Eye Health for Kids

Vision is not only crucial for children’s physical, cognitive, and social development, it can continue to affect health and happiness all through adulthood. A recent report about children’s vision and eye health revealed that more than one in five preschool-age children have a vision disorder, which can range from mild refractive errors (i.e. myopia—nearsightedness, hyperopia—farsightedness, astigmatism) to vision loss. While there is a lot being done to ensure a nationally-recognized system to promote eye health, it’s important to build awareness around the genetic and environmental factors that play a role in visual disorders.

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SfN Brain Awareness Video Contest Winners

The Society for Neuroscience has announced the winners of the 2015 Brain Awareness video contest. Anyone can enter and work with a member of the Society for Neuroscience in their area to produce an educational video about the brain.

The first place winner, Matthew Sugrim’s, video discusses our perception of color and poses the question: “Do We See The Same Red?” The video is a stunningly simple and colorful animation of the neurochemical process of sight, specifically how the brain turns photons into color. He insists that “it is complicated, but it’s not magic. Variations in the composition of cones in our eyes and the exact wiring of our brains may cause very slight variations in color perception.” Regardless, red really is the same red to everyone. Interestingly, many people have learned from the recent viral phenomenon of The Dress that lighting and color context can create much more variance in how people perceive color.

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