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Optical Illusions Reveal How Depression Changes Visual Perception of a Person

Video grab of the optical illusion.
(Credit: YouTube)

Video grab of the optical illusion. (Credit: YouTube)

A new study concluded that people with depression perceived the visual illusion significantly weaker than those with no depression episodes.

The fast-paced world that we live in is very demanding and takes a toll on our mental health. However, now the good thing is that mental health is getting prominence too as people are being vocal about various mental issues like depression. In order to facilitate a deeper insight into how people cope with this challenge, fresh perspectives are needed.

One such study, recently published by Finnish researchers, has revealed how depressed patients process visual information differently.

The researchers tested the visual perception of people with and without depression to arrive at a conclusion. They made use of small squares of the same colours imposed on different backgrounds to understand the nitty-gritty of the process. The objective was to analyze how the brain of people with depression processes visual information. The motive of the study was to further advancements in the treatment given to the patients.

According to the study, the visual illusion was used to analyze how the cerebral cortex – responsible for receiving messages from the five senses processed the illusion.

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The test was carried on 111 people who were experiencing major depressive episodes and 29 people who weren’t. The participants were asked to complete two visual perception tests which included a comparison of brightness and contrast of patterns.

The study concluded that people with depression perceived the visual illusion significantly weaker than those with no depression episodes. The brains of depressed patients were more likely to be taken in by the contrast part of the illusion. But the brightness part of the trick showed very little difference between the groups.

Researchers have called for further research on altered processing of visual information by the brain caused by depression.

They further added that perception tests serve as an additional tool for assessing the effect of various therapies as the treatment progresses. “However, depression cannot be identified by testing visual perception, since the observed differences are small and manifested specifically when comparing groups,” says Academy of Finland Research Fellow Viljami Salmela.

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first published:April 07, 2021, 17:16 IST