I Know Kung Fu: Taking strides in visual perceptual learning

Courtesy of Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

“It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s ‘Matrix’ franchise.”

The National Science Foundation’s analogy comparing the futuristic blockbuster to current visual learning research might initially seem hyperbolic, but researchers at Boston University and the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan have proved once again that it’s only a matter of time before science fiction can become science fact.

In “The Matrix,” the know-how for martial arts or flying helicopters can be downloaded directly into a passive recipient’s brain, and Voila! The body syncs up  and starts performing the “learned” tasks in no time. Back in reality, the December 8th issue of the journal Science published a paper by Kazuhisa Shibata, Takeo Watanabe, Yuka Sasaki, and Mitsuo Kawato in which they present their latest research on visual perceptual learning (VPL). Their findings reveal that it’s possible to target the brain wave patterns of experts like athletes and musicians, and then to induce these patterns in a passive subject’s brain through visual stimuli. The result: participants improve their performance of a task.

Here at GLIMPSE, we continue to marvel at how the strides taken in understanding how we see can fundamentally influence the practice of learning.


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