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Synapses in the human brain work together to process visual stimuli, exchanging incoming information to form a coherent image. This explains why the brain is so good at perceiving lines and contours, according to researchers at the Biozentrum, University of Basel.
The visual cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for processing visual stimuli. Different neurons in this brain area react to components of the visual scene at specific positions in our visual field, explains a statement from the University of Basel.
A research team led by the neurobiologist Sonja Hofer at the Biozentrum, University of Basel used a mouse model to investigate how the individual neurons interact to form a coherent perceptual image.
The researchers were able to show that individual neurons receive extensive information from the other neurons. To accomplish this, the brain merges individual parts of an image into lines, contours and objects. The researchers also discovered that neurons are most likely to be connected if they react to edges that lie on a common axis.
“Our visual environment contains many long lines and contours”, said Hofer. “The structure of the world around us is therefore mirrored in the pattern of synapses in the brain.
According to the researchers, this could explain why the brain is especially good at perceiving lines and contours. In fact, our brain is so good at identifying contours and objects in images that it is sometimes deceived into seeing them even if they do not actually exist.
“Such optical illusions show how primed our brain is to detect lines and object counters,” said Hofer. “Our findings reveal a mechanism that can contribute to this skill.”