A most recent discovery provides evidence that the human brain is strobing and not constant.
Evidence gathered from the finding of a landmark Australian-Italian collaboration suggests that oscillations or ‘strobes’ are a general feature of our brain’s perception. According to the study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney and Italian universities, perception and attention are intrinsically rhythmic in nature.
The researchers believe that this discovery will have an impact on our current understanding of human behavior and how we interact with the environment or make decisions. In a paper they published on Friday in Current Biology, the researchers emphasized three key findings from their study:
- Auditory perception oscillates as one ear peaks in perception before the other ear takes a turn. This is essential for accurately locating events in the environment.
- Auditory decision-making also oscillates.
- Oscillations occur in all perception, not just vision.
Human Brain is Found Strobing
According to an article published by The University of Sydney, Professor David Alais and his colleagues, Johahn Leung and Tam Ho from the schools of Psychology and Medical Sciences collaborated with Professor David Burr from the University of Florence and Professor Maria Concetta Morrone from the University of Pisa for the study.
While it has been known for years that human eye perception is cyclical, this is the first time that our auditory perception has been proven to be the same. In a statement, Professor Alais said:
“These findings that auditory perception also goes through peaks and troughs supports the theory that perception is not passive but in fact, our understanding of the world goes through cycles.”
“We have suspected for some time that the senses are not constant but are processed via cyclical, or rhythmic functions; these findings lend new weight to that theory.”
Apparently, the evidence reflects the action of attention which appears to sample neural activity in rapid bursts.
By doing a simple experiment, the researchers demonstrated that the sensitivity for detecting weak sounds is not constant. Instead, its strobing, or it fluctuates rhythmically over time.
The experiment showed auditory cycles happen at a rate of around six per second. While we might deem this as fast, it’s quite slow as far as neuroscience is concerned. For the record, human brain oscillations might happen up to 100 times per second.
“These findings are important as humans make decisions at the rate of about one-sixth of a second, which is in line with these auditory oscillations,” Professor Alais went on to say.
A variation of oscillation is said to be found between the two ears, with one ear showing peak sensitivity after the other. The oscillation is so fast that we appear to be unaware of it. However, experiments conducted using very fine-grained timing might reveal it.
What is Strobing Brain and how it Works
Typically, when we do different tasks in our everyday lives, not all parts of our body are equally important. Meaning, some parts may receive more attention and be prioritized in the process while others may not. This is considered as an effective strategy to limit cognitive resources on specific items of interests instead of wasting resources over an entire space.
The same thing is being demonstrated by strobing. Over time, strobing produces similar attention, concentrating resources into small temporal epochs rather than keeping them in a uniform but thin allocation.
This strobing approach to attention could help bind together relevant information at regular time points and allow new groupings of information to reassemble at other moments.
The authors of the study are planning to focus their attention on perceptions of touch and how this might use of neural oscillations in an effort to characterize perception, in general, and over all senses. Alais said:
“The brain is such a complex ‘machine’ one could say – it is a testament to science that we are starting to make sense of it – but a takeaway could be that there is so much we don’t know. A decade ago, no one would have thought that perception is constantly strobing – flickering like an old silent movie.”
For now, this research shows that sensory perception of the world is primarily oscillatory, something akin to a strobing light.