As we are getting increasing attention from the media and the general public, I feel I have to clarify a few things about this project.
We are using here a paradigm which was first introduced by G. M. Stratton more than a hundred years ago, then made famous by T. Erismann and I. Kohler in Austria in the first half of the 20th century (LINK HERE) and later used by a few other groups, mainly in Japan.
In these kind of experiments, a person wears prism goggles which mirror reverse the visual input to the eyes about a horizontal axis, therefore turning the image of the word upside down as compared to normal vision. Initially, this provides a very disturbing situation for the person wearing the goggles. The main phenomenon on which the experiments are based is the fact that after a few days, the experimental subject learns to cope with the new situation. At some point, the world seems to be right side up again. We have to assume that at this point, a new mapping between visual maps in the brain, and the areas of the brain which control motor behaviour in space is established.
My lab is interested in a number of different so-called ”visual inversion effects”. Some objects, and particularly human faces can be recognised much better if shown right-side up as compared to upside-down. The question which motivates our experiments is: Once the observer has adapted to a world which has the “wrong” orientation on the her retina, what happens to these inversion effects. Which face is being recognised better? The one that is oriented the same way as faces always were oriented on the retina until the goggles were put on? While still in the “correct” orientation on the retina, they are upside down in the visual world to which the observer has adapted. Or does she process better a face which appears right side up in her new world – but of course is inverted compared to how faces were oriented before?
Even though a number of experiments with inversion goggles have been run over the last 100 years, this question has never been asked, let alone answered.
Therefore, in addition to providing MW with plenty of distraction and challenges to give her plenty of input required to re-map visual and motor maps, we run her on a number of formal tests designed to study the development of her adaptation and her responses to visual inversion effects. These tests are not subject of this blog! Eventually, after careful evaluation of our data, we will publish their results in peer reviewed scientific journals.
Visit the website of my lab for more information on our work at www.biomotionlab.ca.