Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Our left hemisphere is superior at perceiving global topology.

Most theories on how we extract visual information from our environment start with the sensible hierarchy of detecting features first and then integrating them to build objects. Li Chen and colleagues have also argued for the importance of extracting global topological properties as primitives in object perception, and they now have reported the intriguing discovery that the human visual system's sensitivity to topological properties is superior in the left hemisphere, at least for right-handers. Here is a graphic showing the basic conclusion of their work, from the commentary by He:
Figure - Schematic depiction of the left hemisphere's superiority in topological discrimination. A pair of shapes was briefly presented in either the right or the left visual field, projecting initially to the left or right hemispheres (LH or RH), respectively. Observers were asked to respond to whether the two shapes were the same or different. Although the triangle may appear more different from the disk than the ring does, human observers are more sensitive to the difference between the disk and the ring, which are topologically different, but are less sensitive to the difference between the triangle and the disk, which are topologically equivalent. Now, the authors show that the ability to discriminate topological differences is more superior in the left hemisphere than in the right hemisphere, as indicated by the bar plots showing the percent correct discrimination

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