Our Brain Makes Up What We See

Caroline WozniackiA new study from researchers at UC Berkeley provided answers to a crazy question: if it takes one-tenth of a second for the brain to process what the eye sees, then how do we see tennis balls (moving at 120 mph!) in time to hit them correctly? If you do the math, the ball would have already moved 15 feet in the air before the brain would have realized that it was coming towards you. Yikes.

Fortunately, according to the research, fMRIs showed that brains actually have a predictor mechanism pre-installed. When something moves towards us, the brain actually moves those objects to us faster than what the eye is actually seeing, predicting the precise moment in which the tennis ball will be in place for the racket. Imagine if we didn’t have this predictor mechanism! We would have to guess when objects–like moving cars–would actually be in front of us when crossing the street.

There are, unfortunately, some people who don’t have the ability to see motion correctly. This new discovery will allow psychologists to more accurately diagnose patients who claim that they don’t see things in motion. For the rest of us, we can be grateful that we have motion-predictors telling us when to swing that racket!