popular science

chronostasis: how your brain lies to you every day

Human eyes. Rather complex organs aren’t they?

On their full mode 365/24/7. Fast (a single blink lasts 1/10 of a second), most active among all vital thingies in our bodies, rapid-healing, and yet sometimes — very deceiving little cameras of ours.

As you actually see with both hemispheres (the right eye communicates with the left side and vice versa), our eyes are working in an office next and in close connection with our brain. It requires about half of our brain to get involved in all that eyes have to give to the brain.

However, the eyes are not perfect, so, a kind of natural Photoshop is built into the human brain. Because of that, we see the world not as it actually is seen by the eyes.

Take your nose for example. Your brain just edits it from your everyday vision, even though it can actually see it rather clearly. The brain has just decided to filter it and stop it from blocking your everyday moment sight.

Also, an experiment in the 1980s with a bunch of guys wearing inverted mirror googles non-stop, showed that eyes could create an inverted image of the world, but the brain would always turn it back after just a few days of adjusting — the way we consider to be normal.

Pretty crazy brain hack. The brain adapted, and experiment participants did not feel the effect of the inverted image.

Here’s something even crazier. Our eyes have a sort of a physical bug.

First, some definitions: When your eyes move so goddamn fast and the images are speedy, the gif of images your brain receives is called a saccade.

Superman fast, synchronized movements, to be exact.

But there is one something awkward with saccades. Everything you want to see you actually can’t because it becomes blurry and useless.

Saccades can also occur when the environment is constantly moving: when driving a car while reading a book — when the view jumps from word to word.

Turning your eyes into a blurred mess every time you move your eyes is obviously not a good idea, so our brains hide it from us.

Let’s take the role of a brain for a moment. There are two ways for you, like the brain, to solve this issue:

1. Darken the eyesight, i.e. a human’s vision goes black for a second
2. Keep the last image you’ve seen before the saccade
3. Show you the next stable image in the future.

Lol, how can the brain predict the future? It certainly can not. But remember this one: there is no clock ticking in your brain and time is just what you feel.

So. The brain doesn’t use any of the above-mentioned options. What does it do? It just freezes your internal clock and waits for the next image.

It basically puts your visual system on pause.

Then, it fast-forwards your internal clock so it syncs back with the real world. And that’s what happened to you when you did that first gaze shift to the second’s hand.

You are not seeing blackness or even nothing, you’re just not seeing. Period. But you’re not aware of it.

Then when you finish your saccade, it shows you what you now see at the new position. The brain wants you to believe it can time travel of some sort.

It shows the image from a new point but shifts it back in time so that it seems as if the person saw the whole picture all the time while the eyes moved.

And it works. Try it. Find a regular, old-school, analog clock. Look at that second arrow, moving with every tick.

Now, If you quickly look away (but not with your entire head, just with the eyes) from the arrow, and then look at it again, it will seem that the arrow has moved too slowly.


Your brain has just lied to you terribly. The entire visual system does this all. the. time. In this one, with stopped-clock illusion!

This illusion is caused by Saccadic Masking, a mechanism that our brain uses to help us see the world without getting dizzy. Our eyes are constantly moving and our head also turns a lot. Saccadic masking shuts down the input when the scenes that show to your eyes are blurry.

This phenomenon is called chronostasis. It is a kind of temporal and visual illusion that occurs to you every moment without you even noticing.

Overall, chronostasis occurs as a result of a disconnection in the communication between visual sensation and perception.

However, quick eye movements, saccades, disrupt this flow of information. Because research into the neurology associated with visual processing is ongoing, there is renewed debate regarding the exact timing of changes in perception that lead to chronostasis.

It is believed that the eyes are in saccadic eye movement about 10% of the total time. During the saccade, the human brain can stop time up to half a second.

The brain has a separate way of hiding the movement of objects during these pauses so that it does not seem like they are teleporting.
For example, the effect of a saccade is not so obvious if you check it on a clock with a smoothly moving arrow: the brain realizes that it constantly moves and adjusts the image.

What is really important for the evolution of vision is any trick that helps to survive, no matter how weird.

So if you want to get an accurate idea of how things look, use the camera, not your eyes.
That’s why that girl, in real life, looks completely different from that perfect Instagram selfie.


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