Nov 14 Tue 10am AMNH Our Senses: An Immersive Experience

The AMNH will play with your senses

The AMNH will play with your senses

Fun challenges can teach how the brain can be fooled

In the Wavy Room, the floor and walls seem to be less than flat, but they are not

The tricks our senses play upon our minds may be the most interesting aspect of this diverting and thorough survey of how the senses form our perceptions with the help of the brain, in particular a display towards the end of the 11 room array of different activities from Seeing, Detecting, Hearing to Touch and Smelling where the Wavy Room, whose walls and floor are covered with a network of distorting lines that will disorient your sense of balance, leads into “Correcting”, another ‘exploration room’, a gallery of exhibits which “demonstrate the role of the brain in processing sensory information to construct its view of the world”, where one wall display presents an image of a checkerboard partly in the shadow of an object,

According to Rob DeSalle, the curator of the AMNH’s Or Senses. squares A and B are the same shade and if we think not, our brain is playing a trick – but our camera seems to prove him wrong!

where the alternating squares are all in fact the same alternating tonal density of light or dark, but where your brain will insist on interpreting one dark square in the shadow as lighter than another dark square outside the shadow, and despite the statement accompanying it which explains the phenomenon is an illusion, you will find your brain will refuse to correct the impression, however long you look, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that curator Rob Desalle of Invertebrate Zoology has got it wrong, but instead accept it as powerful evidence of how much the brain can distort our understanding of what we are witnessing, as it attempts to correct a sensory impression by creating a misleading one,

Rob should know – he oversaw the Brain:The Inside Story earlier – but your brain may still challenge his guidance that square A is the same color as Square B!

even though your camera shows otherwise, which together with other examples in this room will teach why eye witness accounts are so often mistaken in court cases and must not be treated as gospel, a theme which is taken up on the Museum’s science website for kids, OLogy, where there is now Trip Up Your Brain, a feature on optical illusions and what they reveal about the human brain and our evolutionary past.

Perhaps this shot will persuade you that your brain is changing what you perceive to suit your preconceptions - the separate piece matching A placed on the B square now seems to match its darker tone.

Perhaps this shot will persuade you that your brain is changing what you perceive to suit your preconceptions – the separate piece matching A placed on the B square now seems to match its darker tone.

(AMNH:) Every day, we perceive the world around us through some or all of our senses—including sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, and balance. Every ring of the alarm clock, whiff of breakfast, or step on a cold tile floor—all are detected by specialized sensory cells that send nerve signals to your brain. But as it turns out, for humans “reality” isn’t ever exactly what it seems to be. In an upcoming highly experiential exhibition at the Museum, funhouse-like spaces will dare visitors to trust their senses—then show how or why what we perceive is not simply what is occurring around us.

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience delves into how our brains, adapted over millennia to help our ancestors survive their environments, work with sensory organs to shape and reframe our perceptions of everyday encounters. And it reveals how until recently in our evolutionary history, humans have been oblivious to nature’s other ubiquitous signals, including UV light, infrared sounds, and electrical fields. With the advent of new technologies, scientists now know those signals are all around us—just not perceptible to us through our senses alone.

Our Senses will let visitors explore eleven interactive galleries designed to test our perceptions. A room with changing lights will reveal a series of different images depending on which light—red, blue, or green—shines at any given moment. Another space—this time in black and white—will let visitors discover what happens when our senses disagree: the eyes will see walls and a floor that appear to curve and ripple but the feet will feel a flat surface beneath. (Some visitors may feel off balance, but will be able to bypass the gallery if they prefer.)

Other exhibition highlights include a garden that can be explored through the eyes of a bee or a butterfly, revealing what other animals see when they encounter flowering plants; an audio collage challenging visitors to test their skill at tracking individual sounds, a real-time demonstration of how your brain’s primary task is to sort through the stimulating world around you and select the right information on which to focus your attention; and a variety of experiences that showcase how our brains are wired to prioritize certain signals and focus on particular cues and details, such as movement or human faces. A smell test will invite visitors to unpack the fragrance notes in a complex scent, since what we perceive as a particular odor is actually a symphony of smells. A section on attention will focus on how seemingly unrelated information can shape what you see and hear—and how, when focusing on one item, other, obvious items may be missed. Other areas of the exhibition will delve into how our brain works to create our perception of “reality” by filling in gaps, resolving conflicts, correcting errors, and using scraps of information to trigger memories.

In addition, a live presentation will address why our senses are essential to our survival, how the senses and world views of other species differ from ours, and what’s truly unique about human perception, including sensory integration, language, art, and music.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.