Vanderbilt Researcher: Human Brain Has Great Sense Of Timing

highly artificial visual displays," he said of the experiments. "It's hard to imagine an everyday situation where we would encounter an object whose presence would be defined solely by temporal coincidence. However, as we move about in our environments and look at objects that are perhaps themselves moving, temporal coincidence is inevitably part of the optical input that we must rely on for making sense of those objects and events."

Blake conducts his research - an interface of psychology and neuroscience - at the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, founded in 1989 with a grant from the National Eye Institute. "I'm investigating human visual perception," he explained. "Vision - and in fact all of perception - happens quickly and effortlessly, yet the steps involved are extremely complicated. This complexity is revealed when engineers try to build machines that see. It turns out to be a huge technical challenge that has not been mastered. Yet our brains accomplish visual perception every waking moment of our lives."

Blake, who served as chair of Vanderbilt's psychology department from 1988 to 1996 and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Psychological Society, believes his work may advance understanding about the coding scheme that the brain normally uses in ordinary viewing situations.

"At the moment, there are strong opinions about the possible role of neural timing in perceptual grouping," Blake said. "This is an issue that Sang-Hun Lee and I prefer to leave to the neurophysiologists. But we believe our novel displays, and people's remarkable ability to perceive form based on temporal synchrony, may be useful in resolving the issue."


Contact: Peggy Shaw
Vanderbilt University

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