Tag Archives: Visual Processing

There is a tiny little face inside your brain (or at least there should be one)

Linda Henriksson, Marieke Mur, Nikolaus Kriegeskorte Faciotopy—A face-feature map with face-like topology in the human occipital face area. Cortex. Volume 72, Pages e1-e2, 1-178 (November 2015) p.156-167.



Thomson, Helen Your face is mapped on the surface of other people’s brains. New Scientist. January 19th 2016.



Your face is mapped on the surface of other people’s brains. New Scientist. Issue 3057 23 January 2016.



Volume 72, Pages e1-e2, 1-178 (November 2015)
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts Distributed circuits in visual cognition
Edited by Paolo Bartolomeo, Patrik Vuilleumier and Marlene Behrmann



Colour-blindness a variation in visual perception ability possibly endowing advantages relevant to work performance, rather than simply a disability

Payne, Rob Colour-blindness may aid in search and rescue effort. Science Network. November 11th 2015.

The idea that colour-blindness can be advantagous is not new to me, as last year I watched with great interest a story on ABC24’s News Breakfast in which the colour-blind presenter Michael Rowland explained his advantage over people with normal colour vision in visually detecting camouflaged items. Unfortunately the clip of this story is no longer available to view.

Vision scientist explains colour blindness. ABC News Breakfast. 7 Apr 2014.



Why you will leave shops empty-handed this Christmas season, just the same as last year, and the year before that….

As sure as night follows day, in the days leading up to Christmas supermarkets will run out of packets of dehydrated French onion soup, just when you had the idea to make your own cheap but tasty party dips out of cream cheese or sour cream and the aforementioned processed soup. I’m guessing this happens every year because the state-of-the-art stock ordering computer programs used by the supermarkets group products into categories, and soup being a product range that generally sells more in winter, is not ordered in any quantity in the summer season leading up to Christmas in Australia. Perhaps a similar logic explains why breakfast foods such as hash browns and kippers become scarce in the festive season. I’m guessing that cooked breakfast foods aren’t items in the summer range, even though big cooked breakfasts have been a popular form of family Christmas meal in Australia since the 1990s.

More common and perennial problems in stock replenishment in retail establishments are the big empty chasms where useful and desirable products are supposed to be stocked, and the related problem of the wrong product housed in slots on variety and supermarket shelves. These issues are a problem for retailers, as in the former situation a sale does not happen and in the latter situation the item stocked will most likely be advertised at the wrong price. If the shopper has seen a box of 375g salted mixed nuts stocked in a slot displaying a price of $3.00, around $3.05 less than the price that it scans at, the customer has every right to insist that they be sold the item at the lesser price that they saw when they selected the item, even though I’ve found that staff at a local Woolworths supermarket will defend their right to display $8 pots of bubble-mix in the slot in the toy section designated to $3 bubble mix, not conceding one red cent of discount, whatever the consumer law might say. Shoppers also have a problem when stuff isn’t kept in the shops where stuff is meant to be found. When confronted with fresh air where an item on their shopping list should be found a shopper could feel peeved, because they then have to walk across the shopping centre or drive across town to source an alternative, or do without. And when they are confronted with incorrectly shelved items they may become misled or confused over the price. And the problem goes deeper than that. When some dunce fills a box of Fimo soft light modelling clay packets into a slot at an Officeworks store which was supposed to house similar-sized packages of Das air-drying modelling clay, and hangs an “out-of-stock” sign where the Fimo item should reside, the Fimo is then advertised at the wrong price as a different product, and I’m guessing when the automatic stock-ordering system delivers more of the Das clay, which is really out-of-stock, the shelf-stocking person might find an full slot where their box of Das product should be placed. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but I know that in supermarket night-fill operations the workers are placed under constant pressure to throw product onto the shelves fast, so there isn’t time for anyone to pull the twenty-three blackcurrant jam jars out of the blackberry jam slot, rebox or rehouse them all, and then refill the slot with the contents of the box of blackberry jam. What will probably happen is that the box of blackberry jam will be marked as overstock and returned to the back of the supermarket on a cage to languish in darkness for an indefinite sentence. I hope you like blackcurrant jam, and I hope you don’t have an allergic reaction to the hazelnut wafers that were shelved in the chocolate wafers slot.

I understand that once retail shelves have been allowed to degrade into a state of chaos the disorder becomes a self-perpetuating system, and I know that hope can never be held for any logic or order in any retail space devoted to an extensive range of light globes, but I also wonder whether I’m the only one who sees the errors in product stocking every time I walk into a shop or walk down a retail aisle. Do other shoppers notice the boxes of fish fingers heaped six-high above the fill-line in the freezers? Do store managers notice the expired use-by dates, the 600ml bottles sitting in the 300ml bottle slot, the grey bacon, or does it not register? If they do see the mess and the mistakes, does it not bother them?

The phrase “an eye for detail” pops up fairly frequently in the world of recruiting and HR but no one ever tests for it, and as far as I know, there are no valid, reliable, standardised tests relevant to “eye for detail” and I know of no scientific definition of this ability (readers please correct me and inform me if you know more about this than I do). The standard of spelling ability of job applicants might be used to estimate “eye for detail”, but this standard is a fairly low bar, and it is also not an area of ability that another poor speller is able to judge. One fundamental truth that I’ve learned in researching the science of face memory and visual recognition is that seeing doesn’t simply happen in the eyes, it happens in the eyes and brain. You can have your eyes open but not really see if your brain isn’t processing the information supplied by your eyes, and that is why we all get to see so many dark, empty spaces when we are trying to stock up for the silly season.

Brain Games on SBS

This TV series is so much worth viewing if you are interested in psychology, including optical illusions, visual perception and many other interesting things. http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/506325059936/brain-games-power-of-persuasion

FFS, the dress problem isn’t psychological or perceptual

I’ve done my best to ignore the nonsense surrounding That Dress but I’ve lost patience with the abundance of stupidity that has been bought to the discussion. ISN’T IT AS OBVIOUS AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE? Neither the dress nor the photo of the dress are optical illusions. The dress was simply photographed under lighting conditions that gave rise to a photograph featuring colours that markedly differ from the actual colours of the dress as seen under regular lighting conditions, THEREFORE, the dress in the photo is different colours to the dress in reality. Here’s the big news; colours can be manipulated in photography! Amazing isn’t it? This manipulation can be done on a photo in computerized format using various computer applications, or the colours can be manipulated or altered before the photo is taken, by lighting of the scene to be photographed. In effect, the dress in the photo is a tint of the dress in reality. Why the confusion then? The confusion arose because the question “What colour is the dress?” requires clarification, but no one had the smarts to figure out that the question could be and was likely to be interpreted in two different ways, and thus the requirement for a clarification of the question was not identified. Some people, like myself, interpreted the question to mean “What colour is the dress in the photograph?”, and clearly it is a cold, mauvey-blue unsaturated colour and golden brown, no black, definitely no black, as anyone could see if they held an actually black item up against their computer screen while viewing the photo of the dress on their screen. Understandably, many other people interpreted the question as an invitation to guess, reason or theorize what the colour of the dress might be in reality, based on the way it appears in the photo. These people correctly and cleverly guessed or reasoned that the dress is blue and black. I do wonder about those who saw white and gold, but the question was a trick question, so I wouldn’t judge them.

There’s nothing I love more than a good optical illusion or perceptual anomaly, especially in real life situations, but I’m very sure this dress thing is not one of them. This problem appears to be one for the philosophers, not the psychologists or the scientists, but then again, I’m tempted to wonder whether there might be some measurable psychological or neurological or behavioural difference between those who naturally give an answer based on their immediate visual perception and those who naturally give an answer based on their own interpretation of their visual perceptions. I suspect that the difference might be interesting and meaningful. I’ll bet the former are less prone to most genuine visual illusions.


Postscript March 5th 2015

I’d like to add another point to this post. From what I’ve read this entire dress discussion had it’s origin in the non-scientific world of social media “guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck out”. This young lady who does not appear to be a scientist or a psychologist discovered a very interesting perceptual anomaly phenomenon thing that has sparked huge discussion, including discussion by and among scientists, and the story has been reported in at least one international science magazine. I find it interesting that this dress meme didn’t come from the world of science. Would it have been ignored or have failed to “go viral” if a scientist had discovered The Dress? Does this say something about the sociology of this meme, or is it more the case that a non-scientist has discovered a phenomenon that is more interesting (in regard to the way it has identified puzzlingly polarized responses in large numbers of people) than anything that scientists or academics have discovered recently. Is this an example of non-scientists (not even citizen scientists) making a greater contribution to the science of colour perception than the actual scientists who are supposed to be right on top of this stuff? I know that researchers and others have identified many different types of visual illusions that are supposed to trick most or all people, but I’m not aware of a visual stimuli that polarizes viewers the way The Dress does. Am I simply ignorant? As I have written before, I believe that science is too important to leave it to the scientists.

Radio show about Glenda Parkin living with dementia in suburb of Perth, Western Australia

Below are the details of a recent and very interesting radio interview on Perth public radio with Glenda and Bronte Parkin and Alzheimers WA CEO Rhonda Parker, focusing on Glenda’s experiences as a person who has a form of dementia that goes by a number of names including Benson’s syndrome, posterior cortical atrophy and PCA. This is not the first time that Glenda has shared her story with the media; she previously shared her story with Perth’s daily newspaper, the West Australian, in 2011 and she has recently been interviewed for the Community Newspaper Group.

I have unusual reasons to be grateful that Glenda has shared her story with the mass media. I happened upon her story in a copy of the West while I was enjoying coffee and one of those wonderfully greasy Sausage and Egg McMuffins in a McDonald’s restaurant in 2011, after dropping someone off to a selective school that offers students places based on high ability in the area of literacy and languages. I became intrigued by the fact that the particular type of dementia described in the article appeared to be a mirror-image of the pattern of intellectual gifts that appear to run in our family, associated with synaesthesia, a harmless, genetic, developmental and memory-enhancing condition that is caused by increased connectivity in the structure of the white matter of the brain. I wondered whether there could be an undiscovered developmental basis of Benson’s syndrome that works like the opposite of synesthesia, or could it be caused by some mature-age dysregulation of some chemical that regulates growth in the parts of the brain that seem to be hyper-developed in our family, and attacked, over-pruned or somehow damaged in Benson’s. I wrote about my ideas in this blog soon after. In 2012 my thinking on this theme took an important and exciting leap ahead when I happened across a brief article in New Scientist about research by Dr Beth Stevens on microglia, complement, synaptic pruning and elements of the immune system playing a central role in the development of the brain. I figured that one or maybe more of the complement chemicals could be the chemical that regulates growth or pruning in the parts of the brain that I had written about and attempted to identify in my 2011 blog post. I wrote a brief outline of these ideas at this blog in 2012 in an article that was archived by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine in 2012. In lat 2013 I got a big surprise when I saw my idea linking the immune system with synaesthesia as the main idea of a research paper published in a peer-reviewed neuroscience journal, and all without my permission! That’s another story….

I am sure that many people listening to this radio interview would be fascinated with or even skeptical of Glenda’s account of being able to see but not perceive letters on the cover of a book. Her eyesight is not the problem, the problem lies in the visual processing areas of her brain and because of this a lady who in her impressive career has been an author of books can no longer read text or interpret symbols. Seeing is as much done in the brain as it is done in the eye and optic nerves, and a person who has no apparent problem with their eyes can lose visual perception as the result of dementia or injury or stroke.

“Simple things can be very frustrating” – Glenda and Bronte Parkin on dementia. Mornings with Geoff Hutchison. 720 ABC Perth.

Jarvis, Lucy Still making a contribution: retired educators share experience of living with dementia. Community Newspapers. 2015

Hiatt, Bethany Penrhos principal’s hardest battle.  West Australian. January 3, 2011. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/mp/8588194/glenda-parkin/

Postscript March 10th 2015

The West Weekend liftout of the West Australian of February 14-15 2015 has a feature story about West Australians livng with dementia on pages 10-13. he story of Glenda and Bronte Parkin is included in that article and the content makes it clear that although Glenda Parkin has a diagnosis of Benson’s syndrome which has had a negative impact on her ability to recognize symbols, writing and objects, she can still somehow navigate her way in her neighbourhood. I find this interesting as some people who have prosopagnosia, which is an impairment in face memory, also have a similar impairment in visual memory of scenes or landscapes, and thus have serious problems with navigating their way through streets and neighbourhoods. I had thought that Benson’s syndrome, a type of dementia, and prosopagnosia, a developmental disability and also sometimes acquired from brain injury, must be in many ways similar in their manifestations, as they both feature disability in face recognition, but it appears that it is not safe to make assumptions and maybe each case of these two conditions should be considered unique. I do not recall reading about Glenda Parkin’s ability to recognize faces, so maybe I should assume it is still normal, along with her ability to recognize street-scapes and scenes.

Yeoman, William Open minds. West Weekend. p. 10-13 West Australian. February 14-15 2015.


This astounding neuroscience rediscovery could be a central piece of the puzzle

Some bold and persistent researchers have rediscovered an unusual bundle of nerve fibres or a “major white-matter fascicle” in the human brain. Nice work! It is now called the vertical occipital fasciculus (VOF). This discovery could be an important new piece in the puzzle in researching and exploring ideas that I’m looking at in this blog, such as the relationship between the many different varieties of synaesthesia and face recognition or face memory and also reading ability. I think this discovery could be highly relevant because the rediscovered structure is a pathway of white matter that connects the occipital lobe at the rear of the brain, where visual processing happens, to other areas of the brain, and there is speculation that information carried by this pathway could play a role in face recognition and reading. I have proposed that synaesthesia might be linked to superiority in face recognition (super-recognition) and superiority in reading, citing myself and close kin as examples. I have also described and written about types of synaesthesia that involve faces or other complex memories of images as the concurrent or the inducer or both. Researchers have found that grapheme-colour synaesthesia is characterized by greater coherence in the white matter network in the brain, and that would presumably include the rediscovered VOF. I have identified the rear of the brain, the right hemisphere of the brain and the fusiform gyrus as the parts of my brain that are most likely be the locations of the events that give rise to my super-recognition and synaesthesia and related interesting goings-on, so this white matter highway at the back of the brain  is very likely involved in these processes.

I’m amazed by the story of how this brain pathway came to be forgotten or discredited by science. Apparently because it was unusual in it’s orientation its very existence conflicted with established thinking at the time, so it became non-existent in the eyes of science. I’m sure that many scientists and neuroscience enthusiasts will be surprised that dogmatic thinking in science can create an important “blind spot” in scientific knowledge, but I’m not one of those people. I’ve seen too much misbehaviour, bias and simple ignorance in neuroscience to believe that the fairy-tale accounts of science as an automatically self-correcting enterprise apply to this corner of the world of science.




Blair, Jenny Lost and Found: How a pair of scientists rediscovered a part of the human brain. Discover. October 1, 2015.



Australian study finds evidence suggesting that use of recreational drug ecstasy will damage face perception ability

White, Claire, Edwards, Mark, Brown, John and Bell, Jason The impact of recreational MDMA ‘ecstasy’ use on global form processing. Journal of Psychopharmacology. August 20, 2014

Published online before print August 20, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0269881114546709



Yeang, Lily Ecstasy use affects ability to detect faces, shapes and patterns. ScienceNetwork Western Australia.



One should bear in mind that this study only used a small number of long-term ecstasy users as subjects (6) and these people also used other drugs, which could have had an influence, and it appears that actual faces or images of faces were not a part of the study, which tested the type of visual processing of which face processing is apparently one example. The full text of the study is behind a paywall, so I’ve not yet read it in full. The study is certainly interesting, as it displays internal consistency in the findings which are also apparently compatible with the findings of other studies.

This study is just another good reason why the testing of visual processing, including abilities such as face memory and global form processing, should ideally be an element of the job recruitment selection process for many jobs. “If global form processing is damaged or deficient then our speed and accuracy in recognizing objects in the environment, and our ability to navigate amongst those objects, will be impaired.” So does that mean that long-term ecstasy users aren’t OK to operate heavy machinery or to drive? I think it is anyone’s guess, and there is no law enforcement or job screening process that I am aware of that is likely to detect people with this kind of visual processing disability, until they have a crash. If you know otherwise, please leave a comment and we we’ll all be the wiser.

Would you like to follow these steps?

First go the the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine):  https://archive.org/

Then copy and paste the web address of this blog into the search form that you will find there, removing the beginning bit, and click on “BROWSE HISTORY”:   https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/

The results screen that comes up will show you how many times this blog has been archived by the Internet Archive over the years.

Click on the year 2012, then click on the date June 21st 2012.

The Internet Archive will display to you their archived record of the home page of this blog as recorded on June 21st 2012. You will see a blog coloured in green and blue with stories featuring photos of some sculptures seen around Perth, but the thing that you might (or might not) find interesting is the blog post that is third down the page which was first published on June 7th 2012. This is the blog post where I briefly but clearly published my ideas suggesting causal relationships between the human immune system and synaesthesia, and low levels of some of the complement immune chemicals and synaesthesia, all related to the regulation of developmental synaptic pruning and synaptic plasticity involving the activity of microglia, and in this post I also restated my previously-published speculation that the variety of dementia known as Benson’s syndrome or posterior cortical atrophy could be regarded as the opposite of developmental synaesthesia associated with special abilities in visual perception such as super-recognition ability and exceptional reading ability, a cluster of traits that appears to run in at least one family. Got that? The point I’m trying to make is that I published this stuff in June 2012, I thought of these ideas independently and as far as I can tell no one else had previously published these ideas anywhere, including in scientific journals.

Now take a look at this paper in a neuroscience journal which was published in 2013 and was received by the journal as a draft or manuscript on July 31st 2013:  http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00563/full

Do any of the themes in the paper seem familiar? Does my blog or myself receive any credit or acknowledgement in the paper? Hmm.

Regardless of any issues related to originality or acknowledgement, the important point in all of this is that here we have some ideas about a type of dementia which could conceivably have some medical or scientific use or value. My idea of linking synaesthesia with the immune system is nice but just a step in a possibly much more important sequence of ideas. I’d like to give those ideas another airing, while also restating that I thought of them a long time ago independently and claim all due credit. I hope you don’t mind.

A friendly face in a pile of rubbish

A child noticed this during a visit to Wolf Lane in the city to look at street art murals:

A section of a discarded box looks like a smiling face

a smiling face in a pile of rubbish