What’s an s-shaped animal with scales and no legs? What has big ears, a trunk and tusks? What goes ‘woof’ and chases cats? The brain’s ability to reconstruct facts – ‘a snake’, ‘an elephant’ and ‘a dog’ – from clues has been observed using brain scanning by researchers at Aalto university. Their study was published in Nature Communications.
In the research, test subjects were given three clues to help them guess what familiar objects the clues described. In addition to well-known animals, the clues depicted vegetables, fruits, tools and vehicles. The familiar objects and concepts described in the clues were never presented directly to the test subjects.
The researchers at Aalto University demonstrated that brain activation patterns contained more information about the features of the concept than had been presented as clues. The researchers concluded that the brain uses environmental clues in an agile way to activate a whole range of the target concept’s properties that have been learned during life.
‘This is a very important skill in nature because it enables a quick response based on small amount of information. For example, we automatically avoid a wiggly thing on a rocky shore because we know that a snake may be poisonous,’ says Sasa Kivisaari, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Aalto University.
About Aalto University
AALTO University is a multidisciplinary university in the fields of Science and Technology, Economics, Architecture, and Art and Design. It has 409 faculty members and a student body of 20,000, 70% of which are students in Science and Technology. AALTO University was founded in 2010 by merging three Finnish universities: The Helsinki School of Economics, The University of Art and Design Helsinki, and Helsinki University of Technology. The three schools are all leading institutions in their respective fields and in their own right. Aalto University is a multidisciplinary community where Science and Art meet Technology and Business. The university is committed to identifying and solving grand societal challenges and building an innovative future.