Humans Experience World in Snapshots, not ContinuityWe like to think that we see the world as it is, a constantly shifting place of possibilities. But new research shows that our brains perceive a series of disconnected moments--snapshots, as it were--that are then interpreted as a continuous stream of information.
Explained Professor Gregor Thut of the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology:
“Rhythms are intrinsic to biological systems. The circadian rhythm, with its very slow periodicity of sleep and wake cycles every 24 hours has an obvious, periodic effect on bodily functions. Brain oscillations – the recurrent neural activity that we see in the brain – also show periodicity but cycle at much faster speeds. What we wanted to know was whether brain function was affected in a cyclic manner by these rapid oscillations.”
The research focused on studying an oscillation that happened in the brain 10 times a second, also known as 10 Hertz. They used a short sound which could ‘reset’ the oscillation, allowing them to alter the length of the oscillation.
They then tested perception and found that people responded at a faster rate, in time with the new oscillation that they had artificially imposed.
The fact that the test subjects responded at the faster rate meant that perception was tied to the rate of oscillation.
"Rhythmicity therefore is indeed omnipresent not only in brain activity but also brain function. For perception, this means that despite experiencing the world as a continuum, we do not sample our world continuously but in discrete snapshots determined by the cycles of brain rhythms.”
While Thut doesn’t go into the implications that this research could have, it does introduce a few interesting concepts. Binaural rhythms have long been associated with altering one’s ability to focus and respond, but tests have usually been inconclusive. It could be that their efficacy is dependent on altering the rate of perception, exactly like how the researchers did in this test. But that is just me speculating.