Dedicated information 'highway' makes us see what we do
Standard visual processing is prone to distractions and therefore the human brain has dedicated information 'highway' to enable us see what we do, research has shown.
"Our brains have separate 'hard-wired' systems to visually track our own bodies, even if we are not paying attention to them," the study showed.
In fact, the newly-discovered network triggers reactions even before the conscious brain has time to process them, suggested the researchers from University College London (UCL) and Cambridge University.
The researchers discovered the new mechanism by testing 52 healthy adults in a series of three experiments.
In all experiments, participants used robotic arms to control cursors on two-dimensional displays, where cursor motion was directly linked to hand movement.
Their eyes were kept fixed on a mark at the centre of the screen, confirmed with eye tracking.
"These results provide further evidence of a dedicated 'visuomotor binding' mechanism that is less prone to distractions than standard visual processing," said Alexandra Reichenbach of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
"Exactly why we evolved a separate mechanism remains to be seen, but the need to react rapidly to different visual cues about ourselves and the environment may have been enough to necessitate a specialised pathway," Reichenbach said.
The newly-discovered system could explain why some schizophrenia patients feel like their actions are controlled by someone else.
These findings could also explain why people with even the most advanced prosthetic limbs can have trouble coordinating movements.
(Posted on 14-03-2014)