A Johns Hopkins University report has unraveled how the neurons located in different areas of the visual center collectively work to interpret what the human eye visualizes, be it a letter, number or some other shape. All the obtained information is accommodated and is fitted together like a puzzle to help in the interpretation process. The results of this fascinating study (funded by the National Institutes of Health) appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron.
One of the most striking observations in the study of human physiology is the dependence of the human life on the master control, or the brain. Scientists have been baffled for centuries, exploring the functionality of the human brain. Research related to how the brain visualizes and recognizes what has been visualized represent one of the most fascinating areas of neuroscience.
Visualization is something that is taken for granted and is largely thought be dependent on the human eye. This research has however, proved that the brain indeed plays a major role in this process. It is because of the presence of such an efficient system that we are able to interact with the environment, which is so complex and diverse.
Neurons located in higher regions of the brain are involved in the processing of complex information at different stages to precipitate vision. According to the study conducted on macaque monkeys, neurons in the visual cortex first indiscriminately respond to a visual stimulus. During this process, signals of all the individual features related a shape is being processed. After a few milliseconds, the neurons react to specific combinations of shape rather than responding to individual fragments.
In simpler terms, the brain now begins to put bits and pieces together to form a larger section towards creating a meaningful design. 'Our ability to see is one of the great evolutionary accomplishments of the human brain. We still don't know how the visual system accomplishes this marvel of information processing. Such experiments are beginning to reveal how large networks of neurons in the brain extract meaning from the eye image', concluded Dr. Connor, one of the senior researchers.
The findings of this study have several valuable implications. First, it has led to an improved understanding of neurobiology. Secondly, it has unraveled the mystery behind gross (differentiating an animal and a human being) and fine discriminations in the visual process (differentiation of individual human faces) related to time.
Third, it could eventually lead to the development of neural prostheses (artificial implantable devices) that can be used in the surgical treatment of sensory loss and even impairment of memory and cognitive functions, in the future.