Your expectations shape and quicken your perceptions. A new model that explains the effect suggests it’s time to update theories about sensory processing.
Expect one flavor on the tongue only to get something else, and you’ll find the taste unpleasant. Expect any taste at all, and you’ll register it faster. Neurobiologists are beginning to model how such perceptions respond to changes in context. In doing so, they’re also gaining insights into how we process information and make decisions.
Photo illustration by Olena Shmahalo/Quanta MagazineYears ago, Fontanini and his team found direct neural evidence of this speedup effect in the gustatory cortex, the part of the brain responsible for taste perception. Since then, they have been trying to pin down the structure of the cortical circuitry that made their results possible. Now they have. Last month, they published their findings in Nature Neuroscience: a model of a network with a specific kind of architecture that not only provides new insights into how expectation works, but also delves into broader questions about how scientists should think about perception more generally. Moreover, it falls in step with a theory of decision making that suggests the brain really does leap to conclusions, rather than building up to them.
Read more about the Brain in New World Encyclopedia here: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Brain