Seeing How the Brain Interprets Vision
The human brain is a mysterious organ and researchers are constantly trying to understand it, and as processing visual information is one of the most used aspects of the brain that is a good place to study. Another reason to focus on the visual processing centers of the brain is the relative ease one can be stimulated with; showing someone a picture or video. That is what researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have done in order to map out what areas of the brain are responsible for recognizing different objects.
We know that when we see something the brain does not process the information as an image but instead recognizes objects within the scene. What the researchers were specifically testing was what parts of the brain recognize different categories of objects, which could be useful information for diagnosing and treating brain disorders. To do this the researchers showed five volunteers video clips with while connected to an fMRI machine. The machine recorded what parts of the brain activated for different clips, and by knowing what clips contain what objects, it was possible to determine what areas are related to which objects.
The map of the brain the researchers created turned out to be quite interesting as the brain was more complicated than expected. The hypothesis that different categories of were processed by different areas of the brain turned out to be somewhat, but not complete accurate. While different categories are mostly in different areas of the brain, their regions do overlap. Another surprise was that as much as 20% of the brain is used for the many categories. If you wish, you may see this for yourself at a website the researchers have put together: http://gallantlab.org/semanticmovies/.