Posted Aug 22 2018
“Our subjective experience of the visual world is an illusion,” said Sabine Kastner, a professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. “Perception is discontinuous, going rhythmically through short time windows when we can perceive more or less.”
Researchers from the Kastner Lab use different metaphors to describe this throb of attention, including a spotlight that waxes and wanes in its intensity. Four times per second — once every 250 milliseconds — the spotlight dims and the house lights come up. Instead of focusing on the action “onstage,” your brain takes in everything else around you, say the scientists.
“Every 250 milliseconds, you have an opportunity to switch attention,” said Ian Fiebelkorn, an associate research scholar in PNI and the first author on the macaque-focused paper. You won’t necessarily shift your focus to a new subject, he said, but your brain has a chance to re-examine your priorities and decide if it wants to.
Their work appears as a set of back-to-back papers in the August 2018 issue of Neuron; one paper focuses on human research subjects, the other on macaque monkeys.