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Our Brains Are Mathematical Geniuses According To New Study

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Our Brains Are Mathematical Geniuses

According to Thomas Albright, the director of the Vision Center Laboratory from the Salk Institute, in California, the remote place retreat used by so many people in order to “turn off” their brains is in fact not what it seems. Albright, an expert in the functionality of the visual system explains that the change of scenery makes the brain assess the new information that it receives from the environment.  This includes the assessment of objects, movement and other spatial and temporal properties that the new scenery has.

Sergei Gepshtein, one of the researchers involved in the new study, says that in order to assess these new properties, the brain, can only use a limited amount of neurons. Questions arose around the mechanism that allows the brain to use a limited amount of neurons in an effective way. The research team, consisting of Albright, Gepshtein and Luis Lesmes, a scientist from the Schepens Eye Research Institute, published their new paper in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Champagne and Cognitive HealthThe expectations of several researchers haven’t been met in their own previous studies. Thus, the premise that a prolonged exposure to a new scenery would mean that the brain would be capable of detecting the most subtle details was disproved. The results obtained in some of the studies are contradictory. These results reveal that there is no correlation between the amount of time spent examining the environment and the amount of details the brain perceives and remembers. According to Albright, the results of the studies have shown four different types of reactions. The prolonged exposure to the environment had no effect for some people, whilst having an important effect on others. However, people also experienced an increased awareness for other details that weren’t subject of the study.

Gepshtein reveals that their study emerged from the asking of a new question, “What happens when you look at the problem of resource allocation from a system’s perspective?”. Due to the fact that the brain has a limited number of neurons that can be assigned to different tasks, only a part of them are used for the assessment of this new scenery. “As a result of allocating resources to a stimulus, you lose sensitivity to other things, which may or may not be familiar”, said Gepshtein. As a conclusion for their new finding, professor Albrigth says that if you want to improve your abilities in one thing, your ability to improve in other domains will diminish.

The published study reveals a mathematical point of view. According to the research team, the computations made by the visual system in order to accomplish the adaptation to a new scenery is very much alike the signal processing method described by Dennis Gabor. He received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1971 for his discovery in the field of signal processing. In their studies, Gabor and other contemporary scientists have shown that the content frequency and location of a signal are interdependent. It’s easy to understand and measure the location of a signal. However, the challenge is to measure its frequency at the same time. This is due to the fact that frequency takes a longer time to be accurately determined. This translates into a compromise: Either you have a precise measurement of the location of the signal, either you get a precise determination of its frequency, but a precise determination of both cannot be accomplished. In 1971, Gabor invented the “Gabor Filter”, which allows for the best measurement for both properties.

According to Gepshtein, the human brain uses a similar method as the Gabor Filter. “In human vision, stimuli are first encoded by neural cells whose response characteristics, called receptive fields, have different sizes”, noted Gepshtein, whilst adding that neural cells with larger receptive fields are more sensitive to the signals with a lower spatial frequency. This acts like a filter in the first stages of the visual pathway. This filter is responsible for the stimuli that are received and the ones that aren’t. A change of scenery leads to a change of filter, thus some of the stimuli that were previously received and analyzed are no longer detected, allowing the reception of other stimuli that were previously undetected. “When you see the entire filter, you discover that the pieces – the gains and losses – add up to a coherent pattern”, concluded Gepshtein. Albright added that this process happens whether or not you are consciously paying attention to the change of scenery. However, the adaptation is not an instantaneous process.