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  • Jones Chiropractic

How the Brain Perceives the World

Your brain receives constant messages about your body and the external environment from the sensory organs. That’s your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and so on. With this information, your brain maintains a 3D map of your body and keeps a tab on what’s happening outside your body.

How your brain sees a situation may not be entirely accurate

Perception of Reality

Sometimes your brain even ‘fills in the blanks on your behalf, and your experience isn’t 100% based on reality but is instead a perception of reality. An interesting way to demonstrate how the brain’s inner reality is a perception is using the classic checker shadow illusion, created by Edward H Adelsen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


So how you – or your brain – sees a situation may not be entirely accurate. Sometimes your brain even ‘fills in the blanks on your behalf! That means your experience isn’t 100% based on reality but is instead a perception of reality.


Video Transcript

Did you know that your brain and central nervous system are constantly changing? It’s quite amazing – from one day to the next your brain is not the same. This is what scientists call neural plasticity 1 2.


So what causes this change? Well to start with, your brain receives a constant supply of messages about your body and the external environment from the sensory organs – that’s your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and so on1 3. With this information, your brain maintains a 3D map of your body, and keeps a tab on what’s going on outside your body.


Your brain needs to interpret all of this data from your senses. It translates the information it receives based on what it has learned from your past experiences, as well as its expectations for the future, its preferences, and more 1 2 4 5. You could call this the brain’s bias. There is basically a lot of background processing that happens under the radar.


So how you – or your brain – sees a situation may not be entirely accurate. Sometimes your brain even ‘fills in the blanks on your behalf! That means your experience isn’t 100% based on reality but is instead a perception of reality.


Let’s look at an example of how the brain fills in the blanks. Look at this picture and consider which square is darker, square A or square B?


Which is darker now? It is incredible, isn’t it! Your brain does not just ‘see’ what the eyes tell it. It interprets what the eyes tell it based on other information it has already stored up.


In this case, you see square A as darker than square B, because square B is in the shadow of the green cylinder, while square A is outside the shadow. Based on your brain’s past experience it will ‘decide’ for you that if a square in a shadow reflects the same amount of light as a square outside the shadow, then it must be a lighter shade of grey.


So what happens if the brain’s map of the body is inaccurate, or if it is interpreting information based on faulty perceptions? It may mean that your brain responds to environmental cues ineffectively 3 6-8. 


But how would you know if your brain’s map of the body or its knowledge of the environment was incorrect?


You may find that you become a bit clumsy. That you stub your toe often, or catch your elbow on door frames. You may find that your golf swing is out. Or that your concentration is not what it used to be. Or you may be over-reacting emotionally to a situation.


In the next video, you’ll find out how chiropractic care can help reset the function of the brain and the central nervous system, improving the accuracy of your brain’s map of the body, so that you can operate at your best.


Video References

  1. Kleim JA, Jones TA. Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: Implications for rehabilitation after brain damage. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research 2008;51(1):S225-39

  2. Nelson CA. Neural plasticity and human development. Current directions in psychological science 1999;8(2):42-45.

  3. Maravita A, Spence C, Driver J. Multisensory integration and the body schema: Close to hand and within reach. Current Biology 2003;13(13):R531-R39. doi: 10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00449-4

  4. Kolb B, Whishaw IQ. Brain plasticity and behavior. Annual Review of Psychology 1998;49(1):43-64. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.49.1.43

  5. McGann JP. Associate learning and sensory neuroplasticity: How does it happen and what is it good for? Learning & Memory 2015;22:567-76.

  6. Holmes NP, Spence C. The body schema and multisensory representation(s) of peripersonal space. Cognitive Processing 2004;5(2):94-105. doi: 10.1007/s10339-004-0013-3

  7. Medina J, Coslett HB. From maps to form to space: Touch and the body schema. Neuropsychologia 2010;48(3):645-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.08.017

  8. Morasso P, Sanguineti V. Self-organizing body schema for motor planning. Journal of Motor Behavior 1995;27(1):52-66. doi: 10.1080/00222895.1995.9941699

  9. Haavik H, Kumari N, Holt K, Niazi IK, Amjad I, Pujari AN, Türker KS, Murphy B. The contemporary model of vertebral column joint dysfunction and impact of high-velocity, low-amplitude controlled vertebral thrusts on neuromuscular function. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2021;121(10):2675-2720. doi: 10.1007/s00421-021-04727-z. Advance online publication.

  10. Haavik H, Niazi IK, Kumari N, Amjad I, Duehr J, Holt K. The potential mechanisms of high-velocity, low-amplitude, controlled vertebral thrusts on neuroimmune function: A narrative review. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania). 2021;57(6). doi:10.3390/medicina57060536

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