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The Neuroscience of Illusion

How tricking the eye reveals the inner workings of the brain

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3-D ILLUSIONS

The cupola of the St. Ignatius's church in Rome is a great example of Baroque illusionism. The architect of the church, Horace Grassi, had originally planned to build a cupola, but died before finishing the church, and the money was used for something else.....[ More ]

AMBIGUOUS FIGURES

This bunch of violets contains the faces of Napoleon, his wife, and their child. Can you find them among the flowers? During Napoleon's exile, his supporters used to distribute reproductions of this 1815 engravings.....[ More ]

ILLUSORY MOTION

Some stationary patterns generate the illusory perception of motion. The illusory effect is usually stronger if you move your eyes around the figure. For instance, in this illusion, invented by the scientist Akiyoshi Kitaoka, the "snakes" appear to rotate.....[ More ]

SHAPE DISTORTION ILLUSION

This illusion is known as the Café Wall illusion, and it was first discovered by Richard Gregory's laboratory in a café in Bristol, in the U.K. The black and white tiles are perfectly straight, but look tilted.....[ More ]

BRIGHTNESS AND COLOR ILLUSIONS

In this illusion, created by Edward Adelson at MIT, squares A and B are the same shade of gray. (If you don't believe it, print it out and then cut out the two squares and place them side by side.) This illusion occurs because our brain does not directly perceive the true colors and brightness of objects in the world, but instead compares the color and brightness of a given item with others in its vicinity.....[ More ]

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