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Being able to read this text seems like a simple process. We look at the letters, and are able to make sense of the words. It seems simple, but it's actually an extremely complex process that uses a number of brain structures specialized in visual perception and the different sub-components of vision.
Perception is being able to interpret the information that your different senses receive from your surroundings. This ability to interpret information depends on your particular cognitive processes and prior knowledge. Visual perception could be defined as the ability to interpret the information that our eyes receive. The result of this information being interpreted and received by the brain is what we call visual perception, vision, or sight. Visual perception is a process that starts in our eyes:
- Photo-reception: The light rays reach our pupils and activate the receptor cells in the retina.
- Transmission and basic processing: The signals made by these cells are transmitted through the optic nerve toward the brain. It first goes through the optic chiasma (where the optic nerves cross, making the information received from the right field of vision go to the left hemisphere, and information received from the left field of vision go to the right hemisphere), and is then relayed to the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus.
- Finally, the visual information that our eyes receive is sent to the visual cortex in the occipital lobe.
Characteristics that play a role in visual perception
When you take a look at your desk, your brain identifies everything on it with just a glance, allowing you to quickly respond to it. Knowing this helps you understand how important it is to have good visual perception and how it plays a big role in your daily life.
Examples of visual peception
- Driving is one of the most complex daily tasks that many people do everyday. It requires many different complex processes, once of which is visual perception. If one of the processes in visual perception fails, you have a chance of dangering yourself or others around you. It is so important to quickly be able to figure out how close two cars are to each other, how fast they are going, etc., which wouldn't be possible if your visual perception is poor.
- A child in class will benefit greatly from developed visual perception, as it will allow the child to take notes and better understand the material in general. An alteration or deficiency in this skills may result in poor academic performance.
- In the visual arts, like painting or graphic design, visual perception is very important. If you want to draw a square that seems lifelike, you will have to use your visual perception to choose every color and draw every line perfectly.
- Visual perception is essential for any kind of activity that requires supervision or care. A security guard with poor visual perception won't be able to see the security cameras well, thus making it difficult to do his or her job.
- Of course, we are constantly using visual perception.
Pathologies and disorders associated with visual perception problems
Deficient visual perception may be caused by a variety of problems and difficulties of different levels.
The total or partial loss of vision due to damage to the perceptive organs would cause a significant perception problems (blindness). This may be caused by damage to the eye itself, damage to the pathways that carry the information from the eye to the brain (like glaucoma), or by damage to the areas of the brain responsible for analyzing the information, like a stroke or brain injury.
Perception is not a unitary process, it requires the use of many other processes and mechanisms, which means that other specific damages can alter any of the previously mentioned processes.These deficits are known as visual agnosia. Visual agnosia is the inability to recognize learned objects, even though your sight is still in tact. Agnosia is typically divided into two types: Perceptive agnosia, which allows the person to see the parts of an object, but is unable to understand the object as a while, and Associative agnosia, which allows the person to understand the whole object, but doesn't know what it is. It is difficult to understand the perceptive experience of people with this disorder, because while they "see" the object, they have the sensation of being blind. There are also other, more specific fisorders, like Akinetopsia, which is the inability to see movement, Achromatopsia, the inability to see colors, Prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize familiar faces, and Alexia, the inability to learn to read, along with others.
Aside from the difficulties that impair, either partially or entirely, the ability of visual perception, there are other disorders that alter the visual information received, either distorting the visual information, or eliminating it completely. Such is the case of schizophrenic hallucinations or other syndromes. There are also other types of visual illusions that cause people to lose their vision, like with Charles-Bonnet Syndrome. With this syndrome, the person will have lost their vision, and after a long period of the brain not receiving any visual stimulation or activity, it starts to work incorrectly. The brain causes hallucinations and visual illusions where they see geometric figures or people. However, unlike schizophrenic hallucinations, those who suffer from this disorder know that the hallucinations are not real.
How can you measure and assess visual perception?
Visual perception makes it possible to do an incredible amount of activities. The ability to interact with the environment and your surroundings depends directly on the quality of your visual perception. This is why assessing and knowing how developed your visual perception can be helpful in a number of areas of your life, like academics, medicine, or professional areas. In the academic field, it is important to know which children may have trouble seeing the board or writing notes. In the medical area, knowing one's visual perception level will be important to know if the patient may misread instructions regarding their medication, or if they are unable to live and thrive independently. Finally, visual perception in a professional environment will help when reading or working in a potentially dangerous situation. Knowing which workers should not be handling heavy equipment, or which may need assistance in a specific meeting may make a difference for an employer.
With the complete neuropsychological assessment, you can easily and accurately measure a number of cognitive skills, including visual perception. This assessment evaluates visual assessment using a task based off of the classic NEPSY test from Korkman, Kirk, and Kemp (1998). This task makes it possible to understand how well the user is able to decode and decipher the different elements in the exercise, as well as measure the cognitive resources that the user has to understand and perform the task as efficiently as possible. Aside from visual perception, the test also measures naming, response time, and processing speed.
- Decoding Test VIPER-NAM: Images of various objects will appear on the screen for a short period of time and then disappear. Next, four letters will appear, only one of which will correspond to the name of the object. The user must choose the correct answer as quickly as possible.
How can you rehabilitate or improve visual perception?
Like all of our cognitive abilities, visual perception can be trained and improved, and CogniFit offers a professional tool to help make that possible.
Visual perception rehabilitation is based on the science of neuroplasticity. CogniFit has a professional battery of tasks and tests that was designed to help professionals and individuals rehabilitate and improve deficits in visual perception and other cognitive functions. The brain and neural connections, like a muscle, and be strengthened and improved through practice and training. This is why it's possible to actually improve one's visual perception by frequently training and exercising the correct neural connections. As visual perception improves, you'll have the possibility of sending information from the eyes to the brain quicker and more efficiently than before.
CogniFit was created by a team of professionals specialized in the area of neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, which is how we were able to create a personalized cognitive stimulation program that would be tailored to the needs of each user. This program starts with an evaluation to assess visual perception, auditory perception, and a number of other fundamental cognitive domains, and based on the results, creates a personalized brain training program for each user. The program automatically collects the data from this initial cognitive assessment, and, with the use of sophisticated algorithms, creates a program that works on improving the user's cognitive weaknesses and training their cognitive strengths.
The key to successful brain training is consistently practicing with challenging exercises. CogniFit has evaluation tools, as well as a rehabilitation program to help optimize this cognitive function. The program only requires 15 minutes, two to three times a week.
CogniFit's assessments and stimulation programs are available online and can be practiced on most computers and mobile devices. The program is made up of fun, interactive brain games, and at the end of each training session, the user automatically receives a detailed graph highlighting the user's cognitive progress.