Blind to the world (or not?)

This is very, very curious:

“We found neural activity that frankly surprised us,” says Michael Weliky, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. “Adult ferrets had neural patterns in their visual cortex that correlated very well with images they viewed, but that correlation didn’t exist at all in very young ferrets, suggesting the very basis of comprehending vision may be a very different task for young brains versus old brains.”

A second surprise was in store for Weliky. Placing the ferrets in a darkened room revealed that older ferrets’ brains were still humming along at 80 percent as if they were processing visual information. Since this activity was absent in the youngsters, Weliky and his colleagues were left to wonder: What is the visual cortex so busy processing when there’s no image to process?

This suggests that though the young ferrets are taking in and processing visual stimuli, they’re not processing the stimuli in a way that reflects reality.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for the part where brain professor Michael Weliky has a screening of “The Matrix” for the ferrets.

(University of Rochester: “Under the Surface, the Brain Seethes With Undiscovered Activity” [October 6, 2004])