Information to the brain can be changed in moments on any stimulus; Research

Two faces or cup? Due to different messages, we perceive different images
Two faces or cup? Due to different messages, we perceive different images

Researchers have found that information going to the brain can be changed in moments on any stimulus.

This research has been done by the researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the Bernstein Center Göttingen and the German Primate Center and PLoS Computational Biology.

[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /] Researchers have found that on looking the optical illusions, what we see can change in fractions of seconds without changing the cellular links of the network. They have found that the direction of the flow of information alters depending upon the time of communication between brain areas. Interestingly, this change is affected by even small level of stimulus such as smell or sound at the same time.

“The interacting brain areas are like metronomes that tick at the same speed and in a distinct temporal pattern,” says the physicist and principal investigator Demian Battaglia.

“If one of the metronomes is affected, e.g. through an external stimulus, then it changes beat, ticking in an altered temporal pattern compared to the others. The other areas adapt to this new situation through self-organisation and start playing a different drum beat as well. It is therefore sufficient to impact one of the areas in the network to completely reorganize its functioning, as we have shown in our model,” explains Battaglia.

The applied perturbation does not have to be particularly strong. “It is more important that the ‘kick’ occurs at exactly the right time of the rhythm,” says Battaglia. This might play a significant role for perception processes: “When viewing a picture, we are trained to recognize faces as quickly as possible – even if there aren’t any,” points out the Göttingen researcher. “But if we smell a fragrance reminiscent of wine, we immediately see the cup in the picture. This allows us to quickly adjust to things that we did not expect, changing the focus of our attention.”

This is the first time that researchers have found that change of information could occur without assembly and disassembly of nerve fibers joining different brain circuits.


Demian Battaglia, Annette Witt, Fred Wolf, Theo Geisel, (2012). Dynamic Effective Connectivity of Inter-Areal Brain Circuits. PLoS Computational Biology, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002438

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