Most people assume that what you see is pretty much what your eye sees and reports to your brain. In fact, your brain adds very substantially to the report it gets from your eye, so that a lot of what you see is actually “made up” by the brain (see Seeing more than your eye does). Perhaps even more interestingly, the eye actually throws away much of the information it gets, leaving it to the rest of the brain to fill in additional information in its own ways. A characteristic pattern of connections among neurons (nerve cells) in the eyes of most animals (including humans), termed a “lateral inhibition network“, is a significant way information is thrown away. Lateral inhibition helps to explain a number of “optical illusions” and, more importantly, provides an excellent example of how the brain is organized to actively “make sense” of the information it gets, rather than to simply absorb and respond to it. In so doing, it provides some valuable insights into the sources of our sense of “reality“.
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