Researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix have discovered that the key to visual awareness is located in the occipital lobe or the rear portion of the brain. It has always puzzled scientists as to how the human mind can quickly gauge the object that it is seeing.
Now researchers say that this power to quickly analyze this is generated in a small portion at the back of the brain. Stephen Macknik, Ph.D., a researcher in the Neurosurgery and Neurobiology departments at Barrow, and his colleagues have for the first time localized the area where visual awareness is generated. "Visual awareness is the feeling that makes the world seem visible," Dr. Macknik said. "In contrast to a visual reflex, like when our eyes change their focus, visual awareness describes the conscious experience of recognizing a stimulus as visible, rather than invisible." The study, which was conducted over a period of 12 months, used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan a team of 17 participants while they were looking at objects that were partly visible or clearly visible. Functional MRI gives an accurate account of where exactly energy is being used in the brain. In the current study, researchers mapped the area of the brain where energy was being deflected when the volunteers looked at clear objects. he details of the study appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center