- Brain processing of invisible stimuli has been mapped.
- Invisible images can be partially maintained within high-level regions of the brain.
- Machine learning algorithms help decode the image content
The mechanism by which the human brain process the visuals invisible to the naked eye has been mapped by a research team. The 'invisible images' are encoded and briefly stored by the human brain.
The study was conducted by Jean-Rémi King, a postdoctoral fellow in NYU's Department of Psychology. The co-authors of the study include Niccolo Pescetelli, a doctoral student at the University of Oxford, and Stanislas Dehaene, a professor at Collège de France.
‘Human brain processes and maintains images that are invisible to the naked eye.’
"Our results indicate that what is 'invisible' to the naked eye can, in fact, be encoded and briefly stored by our brain," observes Jean-Rémi King, a postdoctoral fellow in NYU's Department of Psychology and one of the researchers.
The human subjects chosen for the study were asked to view a series of quickly flashed images and to note down the images they saw and which they could not see. During this process the brain activity was also monitored using magnetoencephalography (MEG).
Meantime, the study authors also developed machine learning algorithms to decode the image content directly from the large and complex neuroimaging data generated using MEG.
The algorithms helped revealed a striking dissociation between the dynamics of "objective" (i.e. the visual information presented to the eyes) and "subjective" neural representations (i.e. what subjects report having seen).
"Undoubtedly, these results suggest that our current understanding of the neural mechanisms of conscious perception may need to be revised," notes King, who also holds an appointment at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS). "However, beyond our empirical findings, this study demonstrates that machine learning tools can be remarkably powerful at decoding neuronal activity from MEG recordings--a preview of what we can uncover about the workings of the brain."
What is Magnetoencephalography?
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a non-invasive neuroimaging technique for investigating human brain activity. The measurement of ongoing brain activity is done on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis.
The study appears in the journal Neuron