Your Brain, Behind the Scenes

Dr. Pierre-Michel Bernier discusses the incredible calculations your brain performs to plan even the simplest movements.
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We are always moving objects around us. But the seemingly trivial movements that we do all day (reaching for a coffee cup, grabbing a jacket, etc.) turn out to be not so simple after all. Behind the scenes and totally unconsciously, our brains are doing a tremendous number of calculations to establish where we are in relation to objects around us. As our vision is such a primary sense, it had been thought that the first step for the brain in planning movement was to create a visually based map of objects around us — even for objects that we couldn't see. But in a recent paper in the journal Neuron, Dr. Pierre-Michel Bernier demonstrates that the method the brain uses for planning movement completely changes depending on the sensory inputs that the brain has to work with. Dr. Bernier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, discusses how the brain plans even very simple movements — like pointing — totally differently depending on whether the lights are on or off.