Navigation Links
How we see objects in depth: The brain's code for 3-D structure
Date:10/27/2008

A team of Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists has discovered patterns of brain activity that may underlie our remarkable ability to see and understand the three-dimensional structure of objects.

Computers can beat us at math and chess, but humans are the experts at object vision. (That's why some Web sites use object recognition tasks as part of their authentication of human users.) It seems trivial to us to describe a teapot as having a C-shaped handle on one side, an S-shaped spout on the other and a disk-shaped lid on top. But sifting this three-dimensional information from the constantly changing, two-dimensional images coming in through our eyes is one of the most difficult tasks the brain performs. Even sophisticated computer vision systems have never been able to accomplish the same feat using two-dimensional camera images.

The Johns Hopkins research suggests that higher-level visual regions of the brain represent objects as spatial configurations of surface fragments, something like a structural drawing. Individual neurons are tuned to respond to surface fragment substructures. For instance, one neuron from the study responded to the combination of a forward-facing ridge near the front and an upward-facing concavity near the top. Multiple neurons with different tuning sensitivities could combine like a three-dimensional mosaic to encode the entire object surface. An article describing these findings appears in the November issue of Nature Neuroscience, available online here: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.2202.html.

"Human beings are keenly aware of object structure, and that may be due to this clear structural representation in the brain," explains Charles E. Connor, associate professor in the Zanvyl Krieger Mind-Brain Institute at The Johns Hopkins University.

In the study, Connor and a postdoctoral fellow, Yukako Yamane, trained two rhesus monkeys to look at a computer monitor while 3-D pictures of objects were flashed on the screen. At the same time, the researchers recorded electrical responses of individual neurons in higher-level visual regions of the brain. A computer algorithm was used to guide the experiment gradually toward object shapes that evoked stronger responses.

This evolutionary stimulus strategy let the experimenters pinpoint the exact 3-D shape information that drove a given cell to respond.

These findings and other research on object coding in the brain have implications for treating patients with perceptual disorders. In addition, they could inform new approaches to computer vision. Connor also believes that understanding neural codes could help explain why visual experience feels the way it does, perhaps even why some things seem beautiful and others displeasing.

"In a sense, artists are neuroscientists, experimenting with shape and color, trying to evoke unique, powerful responses from the visual brain," Connor said.

As a first step toward this neuroaesthetic question, the Connor laboratory plans to collaborate with the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to study human responses to sculptural shape. Gary Vikan, the Walters' director, is a strong believer in the power of neuroscience to inform the interpretation of art.

"My interest is in finding out what happens between a visitor's brain and a work of art," said Vikan. "Knowing what effect art has on patrons' brains will contribute to techniques of display -- lighting and color and arrangement -- that will enhance their experiences when they come into the museum."

The plan is to let museum patrons view a series of computer-generated 3-D shapes and rate them aesthetically. The same computer algorithm will be used to guide evolution of these shapes; in this case, based on aesthetic preference.

If this experiment can identify artistically powerful structural motifs, the next step would be to study how those motifs are represented at the neural level.

"Some researchers speculate that evolution determines what kinds of shapes and such our brains find pleasing," Vikan said. "In other words, perhaps we are hard-wired to prefer certain things. This collaboration with the Mind-Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins could help us begin to understand that in more depth."


'/>"/>

Contact: Lisa DeNike
Lde@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Robot fetches objects with just a point and a click
2. Doctors learn to control their own brains pain responses to better treat patients
3. From brains to behavior: Cold Spring Harbor Protocols features methods for neuroscience research
4. Brains R Us: Neuroscience and education town hall
5. Big brains arose twice in higher primates
6. The satellite navigation in our brains
7. Structure of 450 million year old protein reveals evolutions steps
8. Scientists retrace evolution with first atomic structure of an ancient protein
9. A step toward tissue-engineered heart structures for children
10. Scientists learn structure of enzyme in unusual virus
11. Using nanotubes to detect and repair cracks in aircraft wings, other structures
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
How we see objects in depth: The brain's code for 3-D structure
(Date:6/2/2016)... -- Perimeter Surveillance & Detection Systems, Biometrics ... Support & Other Service  The latest report ... analysis of the global Border Security market . ... $17.98 billion in 2016. Now: In November ... software and hardware technologies for advanced video surveillance. ...
(Date:5/16/2016)...   EyeLock LLC , a market leader of ... an IoT Center of Excellence in Austin, ... of embedded iris biometric applications. EyeLock,s iris ... security with unmatched biometric accuracy, making it the most ... EyeLock,s platform uses video technology to deliver a fast ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... FRANCISCO and BANGALORE, India , ... of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... provider, today announced a global partnership that will ... way to use mobile banking and payment services. ... is a key innovation area for financial services, but it ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016  Liquid Biotech USA ... a Sponsored Research Agreement with The University of ... from cancer patients.  The funding will be used ... with clinical outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a ... be employed to support the design of a ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... find the most commonly-identified miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings ... here to read it now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Md. , June 23, 2016 A person ... from the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA ... sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...   EpiBiome , a precision microbiome engineering company, ... financing from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The financing will ... its drug development efforts, as well as purchase additional ... has been an incredible strategic partner to us – ... would provide," said Dr. Aeron Tynes Hammack , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: