Saturday, March 13, 2010

Research: Sensory System and Predictability

Exciting research from the Journal of Neuroscience was published which indicates that is takes less effort for the brain to register predictable images than unpredictable images. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers determined that the brain is not static waiting to process visual information, but attempts to predict visual information. When the brain is correct with the prediction, it is more efficient. If the brain is incorrect with the visual prediction "massive responses are required to find out what is wrong to come up with better predictions". The researchers stated than an important implication of this study is how "visual perception depends on an active generation of predictions".

I find this research so incredibly interesting. What is the implications for children with autism, sensory processing disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. who thrive with routines?

Especially children with autism who can be such strong visual learners. Could this be a large piece of the puzzle as to explaining why? If I child gets better at predicting visual images would that change behaviour outcomes when routines are disrupted?

Is this the reason why Sensory Stories work? Children see images of what will be occurring therefore they get better at predicting them?

Does this explain why visual schedules work so well with some kids?

This study generates so many more questions for me.....

Reference: Medical News Today The Human Brain Processes Predictable Sensory Input In A Particularly Efficient Manner Retrieved from the web on 3/13/2010 from


Hartley said...

I think this is facinating -- and it opens up the same questions for me. It also immediately makes me think of my son who tries to read by 'visually memorizing' each word (like a picture, not a series of letters) - then tries to predict which one is coming next while he reads.

Hmmmm. I too have MANY questions! :) I alway love new research!

Thanks for the info!

Your Therapy Source Inc said...

Good point re: reading. Didn't think of that question. According to this research, if the brain can not predict it does not work efficiently. Perhaps this also helps us to understand why listening to directions, background noise, etc can be distracting - the brain is working too hard to unscramble unpredictable images. I know that is not the only reason scientifically but it has to add to it all.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure-out the results from a structural perspective. A well-used nerve path (from repetition) would seem to underlie the ability to predict - or send the message ultimately to the correct (cortical?) destination. Which leads me to question inadequate pruning in early life.

This research seems to tease-out one aspect of functional neural efficiency - termed prediction. I suspect more than one structural problem could contribute to lack of prediction.

Did you have the opportunity to read the research article, Margaret? You took-on a really challenging article here. Barbara

Your Therapy Source Inc said...

I did not read the whole article just the press release concerning the research. The research makes sense though (no pun intended)- thinking about myself and how much confusing scenarios throw me off. Do you think it is inadequate pruning or lack of repetition? Could be both in my opinion. I agree the article is challenging because it just sets off so many other questions for me about the importance of our visual systems, brain function and ultimately a sensory motor response to the visual images.

By the way, welcome to Twitter. I am of course following you now. I just posted a shout out on Twitter so maybe you will get some more followers.

Anonymous said...

Lack of repetition (neonatal period) can cause inadequate pruning. Pruning occurs when unused neurons die away. Not so much an either/or question.

Hmmm. You are not listed as a follower - just checked. I'm getting into it slower than most, I'm sure. I need to go add a photo and start following a few (special) people. *wink*


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