The perception deception: maths made optical illusions

Perception deception The top series of images show the expression on one person’s face. The lower sequence shows this expression mathematically transferred to another person’s face, causing this face to mimic the first person’s movement.

Professor Peter McOwan, Department of Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London

Professor Alan Johnston, Department of Psychology, CoMPLEX, Vision @ UCL, University College London

How can mathematics help us understand how our brain works? 

Computer scientists and psychologists from Queen Mary, University of London are studying how optical illusions can show how our eyes and brain work together to generate human visual perception.

Approximately half of the human brain is utilised to process our visual landscape. Understanding how the eyes and brain work together to translate these stimuli into what we see is a great scientific challenge. The scientists are using optical illusions and creating new ones to help unfold the mystery of how our eyes and brain create our visual world.

“Optical illusions are some of Nature’s most impressive magic tricks. They are deceptively simple and yet compelling - your brain is telling you lies,” says Professor Peter McOwan from the Computer Science Department at Queen Mary, University of London. “Tricking the human brain can help us understand how we see, and help us explain how our brains work.

“The human brain is the most powerful computer of all, and exploring how it works is a fantastic challenge for scientists.”

The team has been undertaking the research for 15 years. Using mathematical models, they have been able to predict and explain what humans see, and even create new optical illusions.