Open-access science journal PLoS Biology reports on research looking at how the brain handles object recognition among the clutter of the everyday visual world.
Researchers, led by neuroscientist Zoe Kourtzi, asked participants to detect objects hidden in various background images, whilst being scanned in an fMRI scanner.
“The authors found that subjects demonstrated an increased number of correct responses for shapes they encountered during the training sessions, regardless of the type of background the shapes were presented on. By contrast, the fMRI responses differed dramatically, depending on whether the surroundings made the shapes easy or difficult to detect.”
“These results demonstrate that the ability to learn to detect novel shapes is independent of the degree of difficulty, but suggest that the brain employs different mechanisms of perceptual learning depending on whether the objects stand out from their surroundings, or are obscured by them.”