Artificial intelligence has unraveled the mystery behind vision and imagination

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Posted on: July 20, 2020 6:00 pm EDT

A study using AI to understand how eyes translate visual cues has led to some interesting findings

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the world, not only due to the tools that many business operations are using nowadays, but because it also helps humans learn more about how the brain works. A new study has found an overlap between humans and machines that helps scientists understand how the brain operates with vision and imagination. The research was conducted by a team from the Medical University of South Carolina, who discovered how virtual eyes perceive things differently compared to what we process in our brains.

To conduct this research, investigators used an fMRI scanner and an artificial neural network, which mimicked the human brain. One interesting discovery they made is that, when the human imagines something, the brain activity undergoing is less precise.
When imagining, the brain misses the details, which is what leads to the fuzziness and blurriness that come with this brain activity.

This study, published in the journal Current Biology on June 22, notes that, even though both activities use the same area, mental imagery requires the low-level visual areas to be used less precisely than what is used when seeing something. “We know mental imagery is in some ways very similar to vision, but it can’t be exactly identical. We wanted to know specifically in which ways it was different,” said the study’s co-author, neuroscientist Thomas Naselaris.

By using this AI-based technology, scientists are able to study in detail the mental imagery and vision attached to known mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This also means that this method can be used to explore further the disruptions in this process that can occur on other mental health problems such as schizophrenia.