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MIT: How you feel the world impacts how you see it
Date:4/9/2009

In the classic waterfall illusion, if you stare at the downward motion of a waterfall for some period of time, stationary objects like rocks appear to drift upward. MIT neuroscientists have found that this phenomenon, called motion aftereffect, occurs not only in our visual perception but also in our tactile perception, and that these senses actually influence one another. Put another way, how you feel the world can actually change how you see it and vice versa.

In a paper published in the April 9 online issue of Current Biology, researchers found that people who were exposed to visual motion in a given direction perceived tactile motion in the opposite direction. Conversely, tactile motion in one direction gave rise to the illusion of visual motion in the opposite direction.

"Our discovery suggests that the sensory processing of visual and tactile motion use overlapping neural circuits," explained Christopher Moore of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT and senior author of the paper. "The way something looks or feels can be influenced by a stimulus in the other sensory modality."

Volunteers watched visual motion on a computer screen while placing their right index fingertip on a tactile stimulator directly behind the screen. The stimulator consisted of a centimeter-square array composed of 60 pins to deliver precisely controlled vibrations to the fingertips. This stimulator, the only one of its kind in the world, was developed by Qi Wang of Georgia Institute of Technology and Vincent Hayward of Universit Pierre et Marie Curie in France.

To test the effect of visual motion on the subjects' perception of touch, the monitor displayed a pattern of horizontal stripes moving upward or downward for ten seconds. After this visual pattern had disappeared, a single row of horizontal pins simultaneously vibrated the subjects' fingertips. Although the pins delivered a static burst of vibration, all eight sub
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Contact: Julie Pryor
jpryor@mit.edu
617-715-5397
McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Source:Eurekalert  

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