We meet many of the same people every day but without the ability to recognize faces at first glance, our lives would be a confusing mess. Imagine asking your boss for coffee or a waitress to place a phone call.
Monkeys also possess the ability to distinguish between faces of group members and to extract the relevant information about the individual directly from the face. With the help of the so-called 'Thatcher illusion', scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, have examined how people and macaque monkeys recognize faces and process the information in the brain. They found out that both species perceive the faces of their kin immediately, while the faces of the other species are processed in a different way.
This is totally not my field-- medicine-- but totally up my alley-- electronic gaming. So here goes. Doctors prescribed playing Nintendo games to cure a boy's blindness in one eye. And it worked.
The boy had severe lazy eye syndrome in right eye (amblyopia, to be technical), which basically means that eye doesn't track at all. Says his mother, "he could not identify our faces with his weak eye".
The cure? "two hours a day playing Mario Kart on a Nintendo DS [... with] a patch over his good eye to make his lazy one work harder."
The idea that the blind have a more acute sense of smell than the sighted is a myth, according to an ongoing study at the Université de Montréal. Vision loss doesn't enhance the sense of smell, researchers say, blind people just pay more attention to how they perceive smells.
"If you enter a room in which coffee is brewing, you will quickly look for the coffee machine. The blind person entering the same room will only have the smell of coffee as information," says Mathilde Beaulieu-Lefebvre, a graduate student at the Université de Montréal Department of Psychology. "That smell will therefore become very important for their spatial representation."
In Writing As Superpower I outlined how writing is for the eye, at the expense of the hands, despite the fact that our brains may have evolved to comprehend speech. We still prefer to 'listen' with our eyes, despite our eyes not having been designed for this. In Harness The Wild Eye I showed how non-linguistic visual signs are a visual system designed to recognize objects and efficiently react to the information.
To begin to grasp why using object-like visual symbols for words is a good strategy, consider two alternative strategies besides the objects-for-words one.
In Writing As Superpower we discussed that writing is really for the eye, at the expense of the hands, despite the fact that our brains may have evolved to comprehend speech. We still prefer to 'listen' with our eyes, despite our eyes not having been designed for this.
The way we write is for the hand but the shapes of our symbols are for the eye. And that is due to culture.
Communicating with the dead is a standard job requirement for a psychic such as the infamous medium John Edward of the television show Crossing Over who claims to be able to listen to what the deceased family members of his studio audience have to say. Hearing the thoughts of the dead would appear to be one superpower we certainly do not possess. Surely this superpower must remain firmly in the realm of fiction (Edward included). However, a little thought reveals that we in fact do this all the time. …by simply reading.
In my article on brain waves and consciousness I looked at some research associating gamma wave activity with consciousness. This is, however, a controversial area in that other researchers have found that such gamma activity is also correlated with eye movements known as saccades: these are the small eye movements that the brain edits out so that we do not perceive the world as a blur as we switch focus. So, are brain gamma waves merely a byproduct of saccadic movements or are they correlated with consciousness or, potentially, both?
Our everyday visual perceptions rely upon unfathomably complex computations carried out by tens of billions of neurons across over half our cortex. In spite of this, it does not “feel” like work to see. Our cognitive powers are, in stark contrast, “slow and painful,” and we have great trouble with embarrassingly simple logic tasks.