Breaking News
December 10, 2018 - UC San Diego professor receives NCI Outstanding Investigator Award for cancer research
December 10, 2018 - Study evaluates placental mesenchymal stem cell sheets for myocardial repair and regeneration
December 10, 2018 - Blueprint Medicines Announces Updated Results from Ongoing EXPLORER Clinical Trial of Avapritinib Demonstrating Broad Clinical Activity and Significant Symptom Reductions in Patients with Systemic Mastocytosis
December 10, 2018 - Study clarifies ApoE4’s role in dementia
December 10, 2018 - Neuronal activity in the brain allows prediction of risky or safe decisions
December 10, 2018 - FDA Alerts Health Care Professionals and Patients Not to Use Drug Products Intended to be Sterile from Promise Pharmacy
December 10, 2018 - Improving dementia care and treatment saves thousands of pounds in care homes
December 10, 2018 - Heroin-assisted treatment can offer benefits, reduce harms
December 10, 2018 - People covered by Michigan’s expanded Medicaid program report improvements in health, finds study
December 10, 2018 - Hazelnuts improve micronutrient levels in older adults
December 9, 2018 - History of Partner Violence Tied to Menopause Symptoms
December 9, 2018 - Clean Up Safely After a Disaster|Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
December 9, 2018 - Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl’s deadly rise, report concludes
December 9, 2018 - Deprescribing could help manage polypharmacy in older adults
December 9, 2018 - Retraction of article “Joy of cooking too much” from journal
December 9, 2018 - FDA Warns of Rare Stroke Risk With MS Drug Lemtrada (Alemtuzumab)
December 9, 2018 - Feds say heroin, fentanyl remain biggest drug threat to US
December 9, 2018 - Eliminating microglia can reverse some aspects of stress sensitization, study shows
December 9, 2018 - New genetic insight could help treat rare debilitating heart and lung condition
December 9, 2018 - MiRagen Therapeutics Announces Final Safety, Biodistribution and Clinical Efficacy Data From Phase 1 Cobomarsen Clinical Trial in Patients With Mycosis Fungoides
December 9, 2018 - Work with your doctor to weigh pros, cons of treatment options for hyperthyroidism
December 9, 2018 - CWRU researcher secures $14.6 million funding for genetic study into Alzheimer’s disease
December 9, 2018 - High intensity statin treatment and adherence could save more lives
December 9, 2018 - Surgery patients use only 1/4 of prescribed opioids, and prescription size matters
December 9, 2018 - AXT offers Phi Optics upgrade to QPI systems for inverted light microscopes
December 9, 2018 - New booklet could help improve conditions of young pupils with albinism
December 9, 2018 - Few Physicians Work in Practices That Use Telemedicine
December 9, 2018 - Older Adults and Oral Health
December 9, 2018 - Health utility values improve after septorhinoplasty
December 9, 2018 - New EU-funded project provides insight into how the brain develops
December 9, 2018 - Expanded use of tele-emergency services can help strengthen rural hospitals
December 9, 2018 - Infections in the Young May Be Tied to Risk for Mental Illness: Study
December 9, 2018 - Profile: Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
December 9, 2018 - Snoring poses greater cardiac risk to women
December 9, 2018 - Researcher takes further steps in understanding how and why cute aggression occurs
December 9, 2018 - Researchers create new light-activated tools for controlling neurons
December 9, 2018 - Spinal cord injury disrupts the body’s internal clock, study shows
December 9, 2018 - Babies recognize nested structures similar to our grammar
December 9, 2018 - UT Austin researcher receives $2.5 million CZI grant for neurodegenerative disease research
December 9, 2018 - Sleep problems found to be prevalent and increasing among college students
December 9, 2018 - Study reveals why some children are susceptible to the effects of maltreatment
December 9, 2018 - Study investigates influence of different opioids on driving performance
December 9, 2018 - Jazz Pharmaceuticals Announces First Patient Enrolled in Phase 3 Clinical Trial Evaluating JZP-258 for the Treatment of Idiopathic Hypersomnia
December 9, 2018 - Eliminating microglia prevents heightened immune sensitivity after stress
December 9, 2018 - Boys with social difficulties are at greatest risk of early substance use
December 9, 2018 - ‘Wrong’ connective tissue cells linked to worse prognosis in breast cancer patients
December 8, 2018 - Chronic, refractory schizophrenia patients benefit from targeted cognitive training
December 8, 2018 - Advertising in kids’ apps more prevalent than parents may realize
December 8, 2018 - New way to trace the transmission histories of rare genetic diseases
December 8, 2018 - ASH: A+CHP Bests CHOP for Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma
December 8, 2018 - Results of pediatric genomic epilepsy tests often reclassified
December 8, 2018 - New way of controlling HIV latency to completely eradicate the virus
December 8, 2018 - Phasefocus to showcase the Livecyte 2 at ASCB
December 8, 2018 - KHN’s ‘What the Health?’ Is health spending the next big political issue?
December 8, 2018 - Mussels take in microplastic pollution fibers and flush most of them out again
December 8, 2018 - AHA: How to Stop Smoking … for Good
December 8, 2018 - Scientists overturn odds to make Parkinson’s discovery
December 8, 2018 - Health benefits of producing marula vinegar
December 8, 2018 - Failure of critical cellular energy sensor responsible for CKD progression, study finds
December 8, 2018 - Ethnicity can be reliable indicator of gut microbiota diversity
December 8, 2018 - Safe Sleep for Baby | NIH News in Health
December 8, 2018 - Study looks at ways technology can support nutritional needs of Parkinson’s patients
December 8, 2018 - Infant milk allergy is being overdiagnosed say experts
December 8, 2018 - Graphene may one day be used to test for ALS
December 8, 2018 - Houston Methodist launches real-time website to track flu cases
December 8, 2018 - RedHill Announces Positive Top-Line Results from Confirmatory Phase 3 Study with Talicia for H. pylori Infection
December 8, 2018 - A way to measure obesity and health beyond BMI
December 8, 2018 - New diagnostic tools may help identify breast cancer patients who could benefit from targeted therapies
December 8, 2018 - Duke-NUS researchers highlight possible role of bioaerosol sampling in pandemic surveillance
December 8, 2018 - Study quantifies links between alcohol, drug use and violent deaths
December 8, 2018 - Mothers’ stress levels at conception linked to child’s response to life challenges at age 11
December 8, 2018 - MIT researchers develop antimicrobial peptides from South American wasp’s venom
December 8, 2018 - Obesity prevention among low-income, diverse preschool-aged children and parents
December 8, 2018 - Mount Sinai researcher awarded $2.5 million to advance understanding of neurodegenerative diseases
December 8, 2018 - CZI announces funding for open-source software efforts to improve image analysis in biomedicine
December 8, 2018 - New book encompasses the vast history of reproduction
December 8, 2018 - Low-income women in Texas are not receiving contraception after childbirth, study shows
December 8, 2018 - Study expands knowledge about sexuality and gender gaps in political attitudes
December 8, 2018 - Drug reduces hot flash frequency, improves quality of life in breast cancer survivors
December 8, 2018 - Imaging, Biopsy Often Still Needed After Mastectomy
What your cell phone camera tells you about your brain

What your cell phone camera tells you about your brain

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Your brain is structured to make the best possible decision given its limited resources, according to new research that unites cognitive science and information theory – the branch of mathematics that underlies modern communications technology. Credit: Rensselaer

Driving down a dark country road at night, you see a shape ahead on the roadside. Is it a deer or a mailbox? Your brain is structured to make the best possible decision given its limited resources, according to new research that unites cognitive science and information theory—the branch of mathematics that underlies modern communications technology.

The finding, which was published in the journal Science, is an outgrowth of National Science Foundation-supported research into improving pedagogy in STEM fields, which often rely heavily on perceptual abilities and perceptual expertise, said Chris Sims, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assistant professor of cognitive science.

“Take for example geology, where students have to learn to differentiate between rocks or geologic formations that may have a highly similar appearance,” said Sims. “The way it’s typically done is through repetition—you look at lots of rocks until it sinks in. But understanding how the brain works can help us build better classroom training exercises that teach those abilities more efficiently.”

A canonical law of cognitive science—the Universal Law of Generalization, introduced in a 1987 article also published in Science—tells us that your brain makes perceptual decisions based on how similar the new stimulus is to previous experience. Specifically, the law states that the probability you will extend a past experience to new stimulus depends on the similarity between the two experiences, with an exponential decay in probability as similarity decreases. This empirical pattern has proven correct in hundreds of experiments across species including humans, pigeons, and even honeybees.

“This is a fundamental equation that is universal in nature, and it’s held up very well,” said Sims. “But while the law describes the empirical pattern, it doesn’t adequately explain why this pattern should appear in nature. And that’s what I set out to do.”

In his research, Sims turned to information theory, a branch of mathematics founded at Bell Labs in the 1940s that makes it possible to predict the best possible performance of a communication system given the limits of the system. For example, information theory makes it possible to predict the best possible voice accuracy that a telephone wire could transmit given a specific level of noise in the signal.

Building on the evident parallels between noisy telephone wires and noisy neurons, Sims has been using information theory to understand the biological communication systems of perception and memory.

“The idea is that visual perception is a communication channel: there is information in the world, and you need to transmit that information from your eyes to your brain,” said Sims.

Just as there are limits on a mechanical system like a telephone line, there are limits on a biological system, and Sims looked to information theory to describe and predict the optimal performance that could be achieved from the human visual system.

And that led to a serendipitous connection between the Universal Law of Generalization long studied in cognitive science, and the mathematical framework of information theory.

When Sims described the visual system using the information theory framework, he found that a well-known aspect of information theory known as efficient coding predicted the same exponential generalization gradient as that predicted by the Universal Law of Generalization. His work connected the dots between two foundational laws within disparate fields, and suggests that evolution has given us a perceptual system that approaches the optimum predicted by the mathematical laws of information theory.

“I set out to explain why this pattern appears in nature, and the answer according to information theory is that nature has given us perceptual systems that are as efficient as possible, given the constraints and limits they have to work with. It’s a simple explanation for why this pattern exists everywhere and that’s promising.”

The finding might be used to help develop more accurate measurement of perceptual expertise and progression, but Sims said at heart, he’s pleased to have advanced the foundational science.

“I’m excited that now we have mathematical laws we can use to better describe and understand information processing in the brain, and the nature of intelligence in general,” said Sims.

“Efficient coding explains the universal law of generalization in human perception” was published in Science.


Explore further:
Bridging the gap between human memory and perception

More information:
Chris R. Sims, Efficient coding explains the universal law of generalization in human perception, Science (2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1118

Journal reference:
Science

Provided by:
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles