How is it possible for a human eye to figure out letters that are twisted and looped in crazy directions, like those in the little security test internet users are often given on websites?
It seems easy to us - the human brain just does it, but this task is far from simple.
As a matter of fact, the task is so complex that no one has been able to write computer code that translates these distorted letters the same way that neural networks can.
There is a help in a type of challenge-response test - CAPTCHA ("Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart") - used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human.
Now, a team of neuroscientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has explored how the brain a ccomplishes this remarkable task.
The research-involving recordings from hundreds of neurons-may also have future clinical and practical implications, says the study's senior co-authors, Salk neuroscientists Tatyana Sharpee and John Reynolds.
"Understanding how the brain creates a visual image can help humans whose brains are malfunctioning in various different ways-such as people who have lost the ability to see," says Sharpee, an associate professor in the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory.
"One way of solving that problem is to figure out how the brain-not the eye, but the cortex-processes information about the world. If you have that code then you can directly stimulate neurons in the cortex and allow people to see."
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