Visual cortex is the part of the brain responsible for seeing. A new research has revealed that it can take decisions just like the brain's traditional 'higher level' areas.
Lead investigator of the study Jan Brascamp, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University in the US, said, "We are only at the beginning of trying to figure out how the brain works, and the visual system is a very good place to start. In that light, the current findings, which show that the visual system has a capacity we previously did not expect, are an important step in the right direction."
For the study, researchers placed the study participants in an MRI scanner. The subjects were shown two adjacent patterns of dots on a projection screen while their brain activity was monitored.
Previous research using MRIs indicated that the decision to switch perceptions is controlled by the association cortex, which is known for higher-level functions such as making choices, while the visual cortex handles the simpler task of processing visual information.
In this study, the research team found that the visual cortex was making the choice between perceptions on its own.
Brascamp said, "That is one sense in which our study is counterintuitive and surprising. The part of the brain that is responsible for seeing, for the apparently 'simple' act of generating the picture in our mind's eye, turns out to have the ability to do something akin to choosing, as it actively switches between different interpretations of the visual input without any help from traditional 'higher level' areas of the brain."
The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.