Dance your PhD: How does your brain analyze incoming visual information?

Sep 24 2010 Published by under Art & Science, Brain & Behavior

The finalists in the 2010 Dance Your Ph.D. contest have been announced. The competition is open to all science PhDs (or soon-to-be-PhDs) willing submit a video of a dance interpretation of their PhD thesis. And yes, the author of the thesis has to be one of the dancers.

A finalist for each category - Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Social Science - was announced last week. The finalist in biology was "How does your brain analyze incoming visual information?", by Utrecht University gradutate student Maartje de Jong.

She explains:

We tend to believe what we see with our eyes is real and accurate. What we often do not realize is that our eyes register only a reflection of the outside world. To reconstruct reality from this reflection we have to rely on inferences and assumptions. It is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle without any knowledge about the whole picture. Our brain does this without our conscious awareness. In a split second it organizes and interprets incoming visual information to form a stable and meaningful image of the world around us.

[. . . snip . . . ]

Our video explains the basics of how the brain analyzes visual information. You see a man (‘the observer’) watching a movie-clip on his laptop. The visual information presented on his laptop is registered by his eyes and translated into neural signals that enter his brain. Through dance we portray what happens inside the observer’s brain. The leading dancer in the video, who can be recognized by the brain depicted on his clothing, represents the observer’s internal neural factors, such as his goals and experiences. The dancers with an information-icon depicted on their clothing (‘the i-dancers’) represent the incoming visual information.

Read the rest of the explanation of her research - and the dance - here.

Check out the the finalists' videos and vote for your favorite at ScienceNOW. The overall winner will be announced on October 19th at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York.

You can watch all the entries on the Gonzo Labs web site.

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