Visual Thinking and the Bayesian Brain



I’ve admitted before, Ich Bin Ein Bayesianer.  I just love the idea of Bayesianism when it comes to vision therapy, because we arrange conditions to reduce noise in the visual system and to minimize uncertainty.  Noise in the sense of perturbation, and uncertainty in the sense of probability.  Notice I didn’t say eliminate noise or uncertainty, because neither is possible and frankly, in humans, undesirable.  A little creative tension seems to be built into our brains.

This has turned out to be a TED weekend, as I’ll share with you another TED talk I tripped over this morning that centers on Bayesian Probability as related to brain function and particularly as related to vision and movement.

After his prepared remarks, and he’s so clever that I’d encourage you to watch the whole video, at the 19:40 mark neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert (a self-confessed motor chauvinist) makes an interesting comment:  “People have found out that studying vision in the absence of finding out why you have vision is a mistake.  You have to study vision with the realization of how the movement system is going to use vision.”

We spend alot of time arranging conditions for learning in the therapy room, then making observations to provide the patient with optimal feedback.  This can occur at a very high level, as when searching for a particular letter on a Marsden Ball, doing a visual search and engaging in motor planning to calculate and ultimately execute a response.  It’s a form of “see the ball, hit the ball” that all skilled athletes ultimately do.  Or, when catching a ball, using vision to direct the arm to take a less elliptical path to the ball.

Wolpert 2One can take the idea of see the ball, hit the ball to a whole new level, such as Peter Fadde describes in training pitch recognition in baseball, extending Bayesian Probability to pitch recognition and baseball analytics.  Why can some people hit, and other can’t hit?  Wish I understood this better when I went to baseball fantasy camp!

And of course, there’s even an app for that, and a blog to back it up with some science.



One thought on “Visual Thinking and the Bayesian Brain

  1. WOW. Vision and movement. Light input through the eyes serves to stimulate modification of the movements being done at any given time. The blind do this through other senses. The key is the brain factoring out the signal from the noise. Good athletes do this all the time.

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