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Medical How does our brain create a summarized/average representation

  1. Aug 18, 2016 #1
    When I try to imagine face of some persons like relative,friend, celebrities etc. I can visualize them in my mind. I wonder how do brain decide what to show to me in my mind about that person? I might have seen the person at his/her various ages, various dresses, various places. While laughing,talking,crying,quite etc.in various moods. How do brain decide which image to draw in my mind? For example when I imagine actor Tom Cruise whom I saw in various movies at various ages for last 30 years my brain shows him . How brain decide of what age of Tom Cruise, in what dress, in what gesture, in which mood it should represent him to me in my mind? The same goes for all the persons I imagine.
    While testing such thing I found that the still photos of the persons are generally used by my brain. For this reason for the persons whose photos I don't have at all or never watched I struggle to image a face. However for the persons whom I have met recently or few years ago but never saw any photos of them I can imagine them with less struggle. Though for older time persons with whom I have not met for more than 20 years its too difficult to imagine face. There are so much to discover about our brain.
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  3. Aug 18, 2016 #2


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  4. Aug 18, 2016 #3
    It's a chaotic process, as in chaotic neurodynamics. You have many layered images or frames of Tom Cruise burned into you cortex as sensory cell-assemblies and they overlap in terms of different age representations of him and the different movies he's been in. The brain categorizes information like this. Everything's basically clumped together under the "Tom Cruise" category. Why you imagine one representation of him over another at any given instant is, again, a highly chaotic process and relates specifically to many other concurrent processes going on in your brain, such as context, mood, setting, etc.
  5. Aug 19, 2016 #4

    Fervent Freyja

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    I imagine that the representation you receive when remembering a person is dependent upon the circumstances or reasons why that memory had been triggered. If we are thinking about a person that we used to know, whom we have many memories of, we will probably retrieve the memory of them that has the strongest neural connections that they are associated with, aside any circumstantial triggers. These are usually emotional in nature, we know that highly emotional events create strong connections in long-term memory. If we haven't seen a person in so long that we can no longer recall their image, we likely could still recognize that person in a room. The brain has an elaborate system, the occipital and fusiform face areas, devoted to facial recognition. Some reading on the topic: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945215002464
  6. Aug 19, 2016 #5
    @DiracPool: No doubt its a highly chaotic process of brain. The amazing thing is although brain is not a modern computer server still so well it can categorize,sort,create well-organized folders for different subjects . And it does it so instantly on the fly based on existing old saved data . Not only saved actual data , it generated if-else scenarios, it remembers, it simulates, it compares, it assumes, it foresees, it draws fresh new image.

    @Freyja: Right I missed the point that we can still recognize a person's face the moment I see him/her after long time. I may forget someone's name no matter how hard I try. But the moment someone mentions me the correct name I immediately know that its the one. That means even though I can't remember but in my brain it is stored safely. Brain matches the name with the stored one. Alas we can't remember everything always at our will although it is stored somewhere in our brain.
  7. Sep 6, 2016 #6
    Throughout our lives we develop certain principles and rules about how we memorise certain types of information and this is possibly informed by some evolutionary predispositions. So events that have strong emotional components for example are prioritised and we do seem particularly biased towards social information, & facial recognition has been the subject of lots of studies. What we store in memory is rarely a totally accurate representation but the amount of information we store depends very much on its perceived importance and how strongly it is associated with other parts of memory. Remember that even the visual processes involved in rely on the brain to construct the image of what we see from the information our eyes collect, its not really an accurate representation of reality.
    Recall is also considered to be a recreation rather than retrieval of a stored image and so this depends on the strength of the associations we have, & what we consider important, I'm not sure I would describe the process as chaotic, the information is organised for retrieval by associations, so, even though we may not be aware why one particular image of a person comes to mind, its not a random process. It the features of the context of recall that activate specific associations, our current mood seems particularly important, we rarely recall a happy smiling face when we are depressed. So its not really like recalling data, we create something based on the partial data we tend to store. Can you imagine the amount of information we would need to store if we did remember everything we experienced accurately..
  8. Sep 9, 2016 #7


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    The only fully satisfactory answer would be an algorithmic one: what are the algorithms the brain uses to produce these properties. That would also make possible implementation in computers. Unfortunately we know next to nothing about the brain algorithms....
  9. Sep 9, 2016 #8
    The brain doesn't work algorithmically. An algorithm is a human invention used to program a digital computer. The brain does not operate in a serial fashion the way a computer does. So if you want to spend your time looking for the algorithms the brain uses to execute certain intelligent behaviors, you're going to be looking for a long time without much success or satisfaction.
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