The Brain And Optical Illusions Essay Research

The Brain And Optical Illusions Essay, Research Paper

My project question is, How fast does the brain read geometric shapes compared to optical illusions? I will try to find this out by experimenting, reading, and researching the resources that I have acquired. I have planned my experiments using two simple procedures.

In the first, I will draw a puzzle of different color shapes. I will give the test subject a piece of paper with a shape from the puzzle on it. I will have them study the paper. Then I will reveal the puzzle to them and ask them to find the shape as fast as they can. Each subject will be timed in order to determine how long it takes the individual to find the shapes.

As for the second procedure, I will show them an optical illusion called The Hidden Word and ask the test subject to tell me what the word is. Again, the subject will be timed in order to see how long it takes for him or her to find the hidden word. I hope to discover which figure the brain can read faster.

To complete this project, research must be done on the brain. The brain is the most important organ in the body. It makes everything in your body function. Your brain tells you when you are hurt or sick and does many other important things for you. Think about it; it runs everything in your body without you needing to think about it, perfectly!

The brain has seven main parts. They are: the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the cerebellum, the brain stem, the corpus callosum, the two hemispheres, and, the largest part of our brain, the cerebrum.

The thalamus is located just above the the brain stem. It acts like a switchboard, deciding what to do with the messages that come to the brain. If you were doing something, like reading, and someone called you, your thalamus would ignore that someone was calling you.

The hypothalamus controls our emotions such as: happiness, sadness, and hunger. It also controls our sense of temperature. It is located right in front of thalamus.It is also one of the organs that is fully developed when you are born.

The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls our muscles. When we were born, our cerebellum wasn t fully developed. That s why we didn t do things in a coordinated manner with our bodies. We moved shakily with our bodies because messages from another part of our brain called the cerebrum weren t organized by the cerebellum.

The brain stem is located at the back of the brain, right below the thalamus. It has the responsibility of taking care of the jobs we don t think about such as: breathing, blinking, and making our heart beat.

The cerebrum is the largest part of our brain. It takes care of our motor skills such as speaking, walking, and writing. These skills are operated in the outside layer of the brain, called the cortex. It is the last part of the brain to develop and is unique only in humans. The cerebrum is divided into two halves, or hemispheres. Our major learning senses are located within the two hemispheres.

The corpus callosum is the connector for the two hemispheres of the brain. The corpus callosum sends messages between the hemispheres. Your corpus callosum is able to send twenty messages per second to each special nerve cell called neurons . The brain receives messages through these neurons. Scientists believe that for every ten billion cells in the body, one billion of them are neurons.

Our brain and eye work best when dealing with the contrasts of colors or shapes. This is one factor for our three dimensional sight. If a red tennis ball came to rest on a white fence it would show up immediately. Perhaps if a white tennis ball came to rest on that same white fence it wouldn t show up as easily as the red tennis ball. This corresponds with the first part of my project; finding different shapes on different backgrounds.

Another factor in our three-dimensional sight is a group of fibers called optic nerve fibers. They attach to the back of each eye, crisscross each other, and connect to the brain. Since each eye will see from a different angle, the fibers combine and contrast the image before sending it to the brain.

The definition for illusions is: an erroneous perception of reality. My project is based on illusions, shapes, the eye, and the brain. I chose this project because illusions have always fascinated me with their qualities, their tricks, and their patterns.

Our brain is a short-cut taker. It wants to file everything in the simplest way it can. That is why an illusion can work on us. The brain only takes the basic facts and works off those. Here is an example: A father and his son are driving to a baseball game when their car stalls on the train tracks. The train that was coming hits the car, kills the father and injures the son. The son is immediately rushed to the hospital. The boy is on the operating table when the doctor walks in and, upon seeing the boy mutters, I can t operate on this boy, he s my son. How can this be? The answer to this riddle lies in a prejudice our brain forms. It says that doctors are men and nurses are women. If this riddle worked on you, your brain took the shortcut of filing the doctor as a man.

Cultural background will affect how one perceives pictures and images. When shown a picture of a family sitting in their hut,one girl sitting under a window, an East African tribe was asked to describe it. The tribe said that the girl was balancing a box on her head.They also described that the family was sitting under a tree. The experiences we have in life can really change our perception of reality.

When the brain sees an optical illusion it receives more messages than it normally does. To the brain, life is just a barrage of messages waiting to be filed. Sometimes, though, the brain trashes the image and doesn t recall it until the message comes back again.

In conclusion, God made the brain and the eye both perfect. Charles Darwin once said in his book The Origin of the Species:

To suppose that the eye with all inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. 1

In other words, Darwin doubted his own theory of natural selection because of the extreme perfection of the eye and the way it is controlled by the brain. The brain has higher levels of functioning than any computer because a computer can only be programmed by the brain.

1 Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species (New York:The New American Library Of World Literature,1958), p. 168.

The verse that came to mind when writing this paper was Psalm 139:14– I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

David E. Kelley


Changeux, Jean Pierre, Chemical Signaling in the Brain , Scientific American, November 1993, pp. 58-61

Cobb, Vicki, How To Really Fool Yourself, New York City: Lippincott Junior Books, 1981

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Long, Michael E., The Sense of Sight , National Geographic

Maguire, Jack, Care and Feeding of the Brain , New York City: Doubleday Press, 1990

Paraquin, Charles H., The World s Best Optical Illusions, New York City: Sterling Publishing Co., 1987

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Wertenbaker, Lael, The Eye, Window to the World, Washington, D.C.: U.S. News Books, 1981


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