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The imperfect execution of the brain of a mathematically optimal perception



  The imperfect execution of the brain of a mathematically optimal perception
A Bayesian brain with imperfections. Picture credits: Designed by Elina Stengård

Human perception is based on mathematically optimal principles, but the brain is incomplete with these principles, suggesting new research by Elina Stengård and Ronald van den Berg of Uppsala University in Sweden. Their findings are presented in PLOS Computational Biology .

The human brain uses inaccurate sensory input to determine truths about the environment. Previous research suggests that human perception is Bayesian, meaning that the brain optimally considers the uncertainty of sensory observations mathematically. However, some of these studies have been mathematically criticized and other studies suggest that the brain is inherently inaccurate at the neuronal level.

To overcome these concerns, Van den Berg and Stengård presented a series of perception tests to 30 volunteers. In these tests, it was determined whether the on-screen ellipse shapes were tilted clockwise or counterclockwise from the vertical. In various tests, the sensory uncertainty was taken into account in different ways, eg. B. different length extensions of the ellipse shape, distractions in the form of adjacent ellipses and a short display time of the ellipse on the screen.

The researchers then analyzed their results using a number of different mathematical models. They found that the best way to explain the data is through a Bayesian model, which is also subject to imperfections. This model outperformed both an optimal Bayesian model and all non-Bayesian models tested.

"Our findings suggest that human perception is based on optimal strategies, even though the brain's implementation of these strategies seems to be imperfect." Van den Berg says. "This novel concept provides a theoretical middle ground between the seemingly contradictory literatures of optimal models and heuristic models."

Further investigation is needed to determine the apparent imperfections of the decision-making process during the Ellipse Perception Tests. Future research could also test whether the imperfect Bayesian model can account for human behavior in other types of perception tests and in higher-level cognitive decision-making.


Self-consistency influences how we make decisions


Further information:
Elina Stengård et al., Incomplete Bayesian Conclusion in Visual Perception, PLOS Computational Biology (201
9). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pcbi.1006465

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Public Library of Sciences




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Imperfect execution of the brain of a mathematically optimal perception (2019, April 18)
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