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← Neuroscientists uncover neural mechanisms of object recognition

Neuroscientists uncover neural mechanisms of object recognition - Comments

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 1 by Marc Country

As a sculptor, perception of objects is critical to my field, so this is fascinating.

Granted, if you show the person with object agnosia a harmonica, that they identify it as a cash register, what if you show them a harmonica, and ask them to draw a picture of it? Do they draw a cash register? What if you just ask them to draw a harmonica, but don't show them one: do they draw a cash register?...

More to my own field, what if you show them an abstract sculpture: a work by David Smith, say, or Anthony Caro, one that doesn't look "like" anything but itself? How would they describe this object in words or in a drawing: would it too become a functional object in their perception, or would it just bewilder them?

It's this kind of stuff that makes me want to make like Sam Harris, and go into the study of neuroscience.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 15:29:39 UTC | #849696

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 2 by Vorlund

My dissertation was on visual reasoning and I find this is a fascinating area of study. There is some coneention between object recognition and language. Some individuals from injury or tumours lose semantic descriptions of objects so they know what the object is and what it is used for but never know what it is called. They can correctly select a screwdriver for a particular job on the own volition but if asked for a screwdriver they might reach for a spanner or a hammer.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 15:56:41 UTC | #849701

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stafford Gordon

There's a book entitled "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hatstand".

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 16:54:58 UTC | #849709

Gnu Atheist's Avatar Comment 4 by Gnu Atheist

This is fascinating stuff, how the brain is wired and how it functions as a whole. Take that same patient with visual agnosia and hand her the harmonica, even with her eyes closed, and she might easily identify it through the sense of touch. Examples like this and the ones Marc & Vorlund mentioned are really illuminating.

It's a bit dated now, but the book "The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is excellent. It was written by a neurologist who worked in this field.

These findings, by the way, really put a nail in the coffin of "dualism" in my book. If the human mind was a property of "the soul" instead of a manifestation of the brain and its neuronal pathways, then why would discrete lesions of the brain produce these types of deficits? (Not to mention the personality changes associated with lesions of the frontal cortex.)

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 16:57:25 UTC | #849710

Sample's Avatar Comment 5 by Sample

Gnu Atheist,

You're far too kind with your benefit of the doubt to the dualists. Their soul is said to be ethereal, non-materlistic. Ultraviolet shadows have more substance.

Mike

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 17:07:28 UTC | #849712

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 6 by Tyler Durden

Comment 4 by Gnu Atheist :

It's a bit dated now, but the book "The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is excellent. It was written by a neurologist who worked in this field.

An excellent read, even today.

I've just finished reading The God Impulse by Prof of neurology Kevin Nelson, superb. He explains the role of the dorso-lateral prefrontal and temporoparietal regions which use less energy (i.e. turned off) during our REM consciousness, hence, it explains why our dreams can be so bizzare, near-death experiences (NDEs), and out-of-body experiences feel so real to us.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 17:46:09 UTC | #849715

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 7 by drumdaddy

I feel for the subject who suffers from object agnosia. It must be quite distressing.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 18:00:07 UTC | #849716

Ohlordeh's Avatar Comment 8 by Ohlordeh

You don't see news like this every day, not many people would care to understand or even listen to something such as this. It must be both embarassing and stressful to suffer from a condition such as this and I feel sorry for those who suffer from this.

I must confess that I did laugh quite a bit at the idea of confusing a coffee machine for a computer, though.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 18:19:38 UTC | #849719

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 9 by Steven Mading

Comment 2 by Vorlund :

My dissertation was on visual reasoning and I find this is a fascinating area of study. There is some coneention between object recognition and language.

They're both based on the task of taking a massive amount of input and recognizing that it's an acceptable, but fuzzy, fit agaisnt a memorized pattern. Pattern recognition requires not only that you have a big library of patterns in memory (be they patterns of visual objects or patterns of the shape a word makes on paper or the oscillations the sound of the word makes in your eardrum.) But it also requires, and here's the tricky part, that you have a good understanding of the narrowness of scope of those patterns and how much variation is allowed with them. (i.e. if you look at a Toyota Prius or you look at an old world-war 2 Jeep, they look totally different and yet both register in your head with the sensation of "car"-ness. This requires fuzzy matching, but if you go too fuzzy then all objects "look" alike so it takes some nuance.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was some overlap between that and the part of your brain that can recognize that several different sound waves, of totally different patterns, are still all close enough to each other to all be different ways to say the word "automobile" (different accents, different emotional inflections, different voice tones, etc.)

I wouldn't be surprised if there was some overlap with the part of your brain that does the same thing viisually with the written word, and can recognize that, for example, these are all the same word:

Automobile, Automobile, Automobile, elibomotuA, ǝlıqoɯoʇn∀

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 18:36:32 UTC | #849722

TobySaunders's Avatar Comment 10 by TobySaunders

I'm guessing that part of the brain is dampened or altered by psychedelic drugs; in psychedelic experience, symbols sort of break down such that ordinary objects appear more extraordinary (more foreign & abstract) so, I suppose, perhaps it's that part of the brain which is affected...

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 21:34:46 UTC | #849747

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 11 by Neodarwinian

Modularity? Connectivity? Seems to be a little of both in the brain. Not the prepared blank slate of connectionism, or the totally self contained modules of modularity of mind positions.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 21:35:56 UTC | #849748

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 12 by QuestioningKat

Yes Marc, this is interesting to me as well being an artist/designer. In the video Behrmann commented that the subject performed various object recognition tasks, I wonder what they were and if drawing was involved.

Behrmann stated,"visual stimulus fails to be process by the brain in such a way that it can access the meaning from that visual construct." This seems to be a language issue as well as Vorlund stated. The thing that I find interesting is that language is effected when artists draw, paint, etc.( especially realism.) I cannot talk and paint (well) simultaneously. I have watched many "master" artists paint and during the demo, it is always commented that they need to stop talking so they could paint. The painting session's time is extended if talking is involved. Artist's studios and work places tend to be very quiet. Unless music is being played or someone takes a break to goof off, talking and the creation of certain types of art don't mix. Many artists can be talkative, but this requires stopping for a few seconds.

"What was perhaps the most dramatic, controversial and counter-intuitive result was that while the lesion was in the right hemisphere, and quite small, we found that the same region in the left hemisphere was also not operating normally," Behrmann said. I was wondering if anyone knows what function this part of the brain operates. It was asked that they wonder what would happen if a tumor was located in this area.

I wonder if people who have difficulty drawing are actually using a part of the brain other than what most artists use, or if the area is less developed (?) A classic problem with beginners is overcoming their notion of what they are drawing. Say for instance, someone draws a cup on a table. The skilled artist perceives the top of the cup as an ellipse while the beginner may draw it as a perfect circle. The beginner has difficulty recognizing that the top edge of the cup in space is no longer a circle.

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 23:35:19 UTC | #849756

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 13 by QuestioningKat

Blockquote Steven commented: I wouldn't be surprised if there was some overlap between that and the part of your brain that can recognize that several different sound waves, of totally different patterns, are still all close enough to each other to all be different ways to say the word "automobile" (different accents, different emotional inflections, different voice tones, etc.)

I think so. So many artists are also musicians, or do another form of one of the arts. The "language" and approaches are very similar. Both have form, pattern, balance, rhythm, etc. There is also some overlap with music and math. I frequently hear of musicians having a day job as an accountant or someone majoring in music and math.

I have also found that many realist artists tend to be computer literate. You think that they'd be turned off by a computer - Oh no, at a conference, I was surprised to find out that many LOVE the computer (so do I) and especially their iphones even the attendees that were well over 70. My guess is that the technical/analytical skills involved in observing certain forms, angles, masses, etc. are "compatible" with the technical skills involved with computers.

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 00:08:20 UTC | #849759

Martin_C's Avatar Comment 14 by Martin_C

Comment 4 by Gnu Atheist :

This is fascinating stuff, how the brain is wired and how it functions as a whole. Take that same patient with visual agnosia and hand her the harmonica, even with her eyes closed, and she might easily identify it through the sense of touch. Examples like this and the ones Marc & Vorlund mentioned are really illuminating. It's a bit dated now, but the book "The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is excellent. It was written by a neurologist who worked in this field.

These findings, by the way, really put a nail in the coffin of "dualism" in my book. If the human mind was a property of "the soul" instead of a manifestation of the brain and its neuronal pathways, then why would discrete lesions of the brain produce these types of deficits? (Not to mention the personality changes associated with lesions of the frontal cortex.)

I would say that nail was hammerred a long time ago: - If my eyes are damaged I can't see - If my ears are damaged I can't hear - If my brain is damaged I may lose my memory So what does my soul do? If my body dies, what would it mean for my soul to live on if it can't see, hear, touch, taste, smell or have any memory of who it is?!

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 02:00:26 UTC | #849775

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 15 by DavidMcC

Comment 14 by Martin_C :

I would say that nail was hammerred a long time ago: - If my eyes are damaged I can't see - If my ears are damaged I can't hear - If my brain is damaged I may lose my memory So what does my soul do? If my body dies, what would it mean for my soul to live on if it can't see, hear, touch, taste, smell or have any memory of who it is?!

Umm,... What's a soul, and do you actually think you have one? Or did a priest just tell you that you have one?

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 09:38:47 UTC | #849830

Owin's Avatar Comment 16 by Owin

Comment 15 by DavidMcC :

Comment 14 by Martin_C :

I would say that nail was hammerred a long time ago: - If my eyes are damaged I can't see - If my ears are damaged I can't hear - If my brain is damaged I may lose my memory So what does my soul do? If my body dies, what would it mean for my soul to live on if it can't see, hear, touch, taste, smell or have any memory of who it is?!

Umm,... What's a soul, and do you actually think you have one? Or did a priest just tell you that you have one?

Martin was just saying how it would be pointless, as well as undesirable to have a soul, if its just a eternal representation of the mind. The one that no longer functions. There are concepts of the soul that get around this of course, but that is wishful thinking in type that's almost impossible to disprove.

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 17:04:23 UTC | #849948

NH King's Avatar Comment 17 by NH King

Granted, if you show the person with object agnosia a harmonica, that they identify it as a cash register, what if you show them a harmonica, and ask them to draw a picture of it? Do they draw a cash register? What if you just ask them to draw a harmonica, but don't show them one: do they draw a cash register?...

I hate to make statements like this without a source, but if you show them a harmonica and ask them to draw it, they will draw a harmonica and still think it's pronounced "cash register." They may even play a harmonica, and say they're playing a dog. It's not that they don't know what an object is - that would be a level of brain damage exceeding any sort of functionality - but rather don't know what it's called. They think they do, and they're very confident in their answer, but nope.

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 20:39:28 UTC | #850002

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 18 by Schrodinger's Cat

Hmm. If I took the motherboard out of my computer, hit it with a hammer, and observed that some aspects of the computer then stop working, I think it would be stretching it a bit to then proclaim that I'd found the basis of those functions.

Sat, 16 Jul 2011 11:46:38 UTC | #850127

SourTomatoSand's Avatar Comment 19 by SourTomatoSand

Comment 18 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Hmm. If I took the motherboard out of my computer, hit it with a hammer, and observed that some aspects of the computer then stop working, I think it would be stretching it a bit to then proclaim that I'd found the basis of those functions.

A more accurate analogy would be to remove the graphics card and then observe that you lose hardware 3D rendering capability. You could then conclude that the graphics card is the basis for hardware 3D graphics rendering.

Sat, 16 Jul 2011 13:10:34 UTC | #850147