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Perception Stabilized – Thanks to Your Brains

Whenever one has to watch shaky images recorded by an unsteadily held camera, one can feel nauseous. Does one ever consider how the brain //restores an almost continuous shaky video stream from our eyes which is for ever darting back and forth taking also into consideration our bodies which is in constant motion at any given point of time?

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that the brain not only finds away to compensate for a constantly wavering gaze, but also, surprisingly relies on these same flickering eye movements to recognize partially concealed or moving objects. The forthcoming issue of Nature Neuroscience will carry details of their research.

"You might expect that if you move your eyes, your perception of objects might get degraded," explains senior author Richard Krauzlis, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute. "The striking thing is that moving your eyes can actually help resolve ambiguous visual inputs."

Our eyes move all the time, whether to follow a moving object or to scan our surroundings. On average, our eyes move several times a second – in fact, in a lifetime, our eyes move more often than our heart beats. "Nevertheless, you don't have the sense that the world has just swept across or rotated around you. You sense that the world is stable," says Krauzlis.

Just like high-end video cameras, the brain relies on an internal image stabilization system to prevent our perception of the world from turning into a blurry mess. Explains lead author Ziad Hafed, Ph.D. "Obviously, the brain has found a solution. In addition to the jumpy video stream, the visual system constantly receives feedback about the eye movements that the brain is generating."

Hafed and Krauzlis took the question of how the brain is able to maintain perception under less than optimal circumstances one step further. "If you think of the vide
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