Researchers from Glasgow University are using the surrealist paintings of Salvador Dalí, to understand how our brains process visual information.
Dalí’s paintings have long been appreciated and studied for their ability to play with the viewers mind, and now researchers are using it to unlock an individuals ‘Brain code’.
Take a look at the painting below, Slave market with the disappearing bust of voltaire (1940). This painting features an intentional optical illusion where the bust of voltaire is made with the impressions of the nuns and surrounding imagery.
If you look long enough then you will eventually see both images. However, you will notice one first, if even for a brief moment.
The researchers, who documented their study here, asked participants to study the painting and to identify which image they saw first, all the while their brains were being monitored. The researchers found that the right hemisphere of the brain processed the left side of the image, and the left side of the brain worked on the right side of the image. However, within a fraction of a second, the two hemispheres of the brain communicated with each other to piece together the whole picture.
“We found very early on, after around 100 milliseconds of processing post-stimulus, that the brain processes very specific features such as the left eye, the right eye, the corner of the nose, the corner of the mouth.”
“But then subsequent to this, at about 200 milliseconds… we also found that the brain transfers features across the two hemispheres in order to construct a full representation of the stimulus.” Professor Philippe Schyns said to the BBC.
The research continues however, as the researchers still aren’t entirely sure as to the mechanism which dictates what the brain sees first.
Another interesting fact Professor Philippe Schyns divulged in his interview with the BBC was that the information they manage to discover will eventually help to enhance the ability of robots to process visual data.
In this way, robots will be able to see the world just like their creators.