Unsolved Mysteries of Neuroscience: The Binding Problem

How all the parts of the brain come together so that you have a unified perception of the world is one of the unsolved mysteries in neuroscience. 

The binding problem is when you look at what's happening in the brain, you find there's a division of labor.  You have some parts of your brain that care about vision, some about hearing, some about touch.  And even within a system, like vision, you have parts that care about colors, parts that care about orientations, parts that care about angles.  And how this all comes together so that you have a unified perception of the world is one of the unsolved mysteries in neuroscience. 


We’re not aware of that division of labor. Everything seems like it’s perfectly unified to us.  So this is still something we’re all working on.  

One thing that's very clear to us now, though, is that vision is not like a camera.  It’s not like light signals hit your eye and work their way up to the top and they move up some hierarchy and then they get seen.  Instead, vision is all about internal activity that's already happening in your head and there's a little bit of data that comes up these cables and modifies or modulates that activity. But, essentially, all you're ever seeing is your internal model of what you believe you're seeing out there. 

So this is a very different viewpoint from what is presented in college textbooks on vision.  In other words, even the textbooks need to catch up on what we already know about how perception actually works. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy fo Shutterstock

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Number of American parents not vaccinating infants has quadrupled

A measles comeback is not the sort of return our children deserve.

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 04: An influenza vaccination is prepared for a patient at the CVS Pharmacy store's MinuteClinic on October 4, 2018 in Miami, Florida. CVS stores will provide flu vaccinations at their MinuteClinic as well as the pharmacy and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics between now and the end of October is the best time to get vaccinated as the flu season begins. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven't received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years.
  • In 2016 in Europe there were 5,273 cases of measles. One year later that jumped to 21,315 cases.
  • Discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield's false study linking vaccines and autism still influences parents, two decades later.
Keep reading Show less

42 percent of new cancer patients lose their life savings

A new study delivers the dark financial reality of cancer.

Photo: Ken Treloar / Unsplash
Politics & Current Affairs
  • 62 percent of cancer patients report being in debt due to their treatment.
  • 55 percent accrue at least $10,000 in debt, while 3 percent file for bankruptcy.
  • Cancer costs exceed $80 billion in America each year.
Keep reading Show less