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How Our Brains Set the World Spinning - Snakes in the mind

If there’s ever excuse to publish an optical illusion as cool as the “Rotating Snakes,” I’ll take it. This illusion was invented in 2003 by Akiyoshi Kitaoka of Ritsumeikan University in Japan, and ever since, Kitaoka and other scientists have been trying to figure out why it works. A new paper by Stephen Macknik at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix may have the answer.

As you’ll notice, the circles seem to rotate in response to where you look at the illusion. So Macknik and his colleagues tracked the movement of people’s eyes as they gazed at two of these wheels on a computer screen. Their subjects kept a finger pressed on a button, lifting it whenever they seemed to see the wheels move.

Macnick and his colleagues found a tight correlation between the onset of the illusion and a kind of involuntary movement our eyes make, known as microsaccades. Even when we’re staring at a still object, our eyes keep darting around. These movements, called microsaccades, help us compensate for a peculiar property of the eye: if we stare at an object for too long, the signals each photoreceptor sends to the brain become weaker. Microsaccades refresh the photoreceptors with a different input and breath new life into our perception.

Source: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2012/04/24/how-our-brains-set-the-world-spinning/
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418 comments
 
This is very interesting thanks for sharing this piece of art with the world
 
I have seen it elswhere and thought of it as an animated gif, now reading the comment I gave it a second look :-O
Hung Do
 
This is really cool !!!. When I focus on one then it moves.
 
When I look at this, they all move. When I focus on one it stops moving! Crazy! Love it!
 
Really fascinating... I've seen these illusions before but never spent much time staring at them. I notice when I make a determined effort to hold my eyes absolutely still the "spinning" effect briefly stops... so they seem to be onto something.
 
this would be scary if you were trippin....haha
 
probably because like ur profile pic, ur eyes are closed. open em up yuh old jap
 
It's amazing. The wheels are spinning (slowly) for me.
 
Because the eyes are constantly moving to get lubricated and the eye movement gives the impression of movement. Static pictures don't move but the human eye does
 
klas but it hurts my eyes looking at that
 
i tried focusing my eyes on it but i couldn't
 
need... to... stop.... staring...
 
Hi +david mixon I noticed that as well regarding holding you eyes still - perhaps you've cracked what the scientists are still baffled about - it's our eyes that are moving and not the snakes!
Hey, +Derya Unutmaz do you have any more like this you can post?
 
+Joe Albergo Sorry I removed my comment that I think you are reacting to. I was not first to mention the resemblance to an animated gif. I hadn't noticed that before I commented.
 
if u consentrate... it will stop moving
 
If you can manage to keep your eyes focused on one thing the moving effect is negated. Still cool though! 
 
Oh no, not at all! Richard... I was laughing at the girl's comment about it making her "Horny" hahahaha!
 
Wow!!! The circles are moving, or my eyes are playing tricks. LOL
 
Man! this illusion strains my eyes. Need to get back to video games.
 
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH CREEPY BUT COOL
 
I've loved this for a long time. Still entertains :D
 
Creepy...and it is making me dizzy
 
Yeah, It seems that all the circle are rotating.
 
YEAH IF WE LOOK AT THE UPSIDE ,THE DOWNSIDE WILL ROTATE
Ali B
 
My eyes hurt now!!
 
Wowww, this is actually pretty cool, not gonna lie.
 
Wow! I know our minds fill in incomplete words or pictures to make it familiar or comprehensible. Yet, this is, indeed, remarkable
 
You'd go insane trying to understand this one!
 
really cool..................
 
the snakes go round and round and now so is my mind. lol
 
real but lie..amazing..
 
If you focus intently on the inner 'eye', it will all stop rotating...
 
That dose work but it hurts my eyes.
:) :)$$$$
 
they work by their shape-s, position-s and placement-s. (my opinion). but if you absolutely focus on one singles shape it won't work, stops.
 
You will vote for Buddy, vote for Buddy, vote for Buddy..
 
seriously its too bad to eyes omg
 
it's surely not an animation i took a screen shot and still it moved !!
 
its nthn like dat... it is totally depending on movement of the eyeball
if you close one eye and watch carefully, the effect happens to be reduced.
 
This is great, if you look at one circle it doesn't move but the others do. I love it.
 
the move when you dont look at them but when you look it stops
thats cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
My eye is rotating ............ ha ha ha . great like
 
ya supab ........... lol!!!!!
 
If i keep staring long enough right in the middle the circles stop moving.
 
a fascinating exhibition of the mind's ability to set reality in motion.
 
Your brain translates this image like if it is moving...!
 
its really good Fission reaction in mind instead of Fusion
 
confirming how complex brain+eye are!
 
my eyes.....they are very confused
 
cooooooooooooooooooollllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Thats realy cool were do i get one
 
This works because it taps into the subconscious receptors in our brain's visual cortex... how? Using patterns modeled off the golden-ratio (phi), our deeper visual sensors respond to the pattern because it "fits" onto our perception of natural order in the living world.... we're able to view the deeply ancient function of our visual computer --- capable of interpreting more than our general state of consciousness is able to interpret for immediate survival and interaction with 3 dimensional space. Put another way, such patterns give practical meaning to "more than meets the eye".
 
No, they're not, but it's an illusion so it seems like they are.
 
I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ
anyone else?
 
As Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson put it: "It's not an optical illusion, it's a brain failure."
 
wow
say yes if u think thats cool
Translate
 
However, I find that if I focus on the center of the bottom right circle, everything stops...only the one though, odd.
 
That's pertty kool! Thers all kinds of differnt way of looking at this one.
Translate
 
thats awesome.
i sat here for 10 minutes
 
THOSE ARE SNAKES???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!
 
I was just publishing it. But You have a good one.
 
this is so fun to watch, but after a while it makes my head hurt
 
is it actually moving or is it an illusion????
 
i say its moving and my friend says it isn't moving. it is moving i know it is.
 
I find the illusion of movement occurs when my eyes' point of focus is moving. I recall from a talk given on a subway and posted to YouTube a few years ago that our eyes' rods perceive motion first and cones follow with colour information later. I'd suspect the explanation is related.
 
OH CRAP!! one of the wheels stopped, *bumping head* ,OK were good.
 
One of my favourite 'optical illusions'. Just another reminder about how little we know about the inner workings of our brains.
 
wooo its moving << kind of hurting my eyes
 
wow!!! it seems like its moving! that is sooo awesome!!!!!!!!
 
to cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Hell ya! Sounds like the same thing when you stair at a specific star in the night sky and it seems to fade....
 
LOOKS LIKE ITS SPINNING!!!!!!
 
Good effort hard work never dies.
 
if you look at it it wont move.....but if you don't it dose!!!!!!
 
that is amazing i watch a show that dose somethings just like that
 
david, u r sooooo right! :)
 
that is soooo cccccooooooolllllllll!!!!! :)))))
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Neha K.
 
I'm freaking out!
 
awesome illusions playing with the minds 3
rd eye hahaha... getting a head ache
 
coooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
 
This is great I tried looking at from every angle and it did not seem to stop spinning.
 
OMG almost makes me dizzy!
 
WAIT I GOT IT!! watever circle u look at,it doesn't move but wen u look at the middle 1,they ALL MOVE(COMPLECATED I NO DAT)
:)
 
wow! dats really cool! i mean the way it's spinning just lookx really cool. :)
 
What are you all smoking? It's not spinning for me at all!!
 
those look like its moving when i look at one and look around
 
If I focus long enough directly in the center it stops moving, only to move again when I look at another spot!
 
there's one like that at science world...
 
verey nice but ,how we can use it in life.
 
That is awesome and extremely annoying at the same time! 
 
i dont think anybody wants to know who actually invented it
 
Ah, rotsnakes! Don't get this pattern printed as bedroom wallpaper, folks.
 
If you have bad eye sight like me and one eye is weaker than the other with out vision corrective lenses it doesn't rotate as much I wonder if they have a reason for that
 
if everything looks like it's turning, why did Galileo get punished?
 
its making my head go mad...stop spinning!!!!!
 
aaaahhhhhh i can't think about it too much or my brain will explode!
how does it work?
WHY does it work?
HOW did that person figure out how to do it without knowing how it works?
so many questions!!!!!!!!
 
it is only you're eyes tricking you
 
yoyoyo dat be some crazy ass shit
 
i carnt c them move but i does look kwl !!!
 
blurry eyesight makes it even more of an illusion...
 
It's moving only for slip of eye.i'm sure.cool drawed
 
Because when you're zoomimg on it,u can't see any move
 
Doesn't work for me, might be my phone as everything is shades of green. So its colour that triggers it.
 
Are you sure it's not animated?
 
It looks like it is moving O_O
 
it does look like its moving how did u do that (amazing great job) XD :)
 
Very nice, even though it is kind of creepy!
 
it looks like they really are moving!!!!!!!
so cool!!!!!!!!!!
 
Wow that's really cool! I have never seen it before
 
that is wird but you do have to stare at is to see it thuogh
 
wow. it makes me headache when I look and stroll my eye around the deeper circle and really inside the circle
 
Very clever. I wonder how the author figured it out in the first place?
 
crazy stuff makes me want to look at more like it
 
That's really cool... but I don't entirely get it T_T
 
cracking piece of art and the illusion of movement like it!
 
i love yellow but that is awesome. it is 3D:}
 
If you walk far enough a way it stops moving.
 
wow cool very. Do u see how mixed up I am.
 
Outstanding! Red fixed points blue, black, and gold. Surrounded by space, showing great depth, layers and dimension, remaining square in a circle. 3-Delightful /) !
 
pay attention really close. Which way is it spinning?
 
wow this is wird and cool at the same time.
 
awesome! the picture looks like it spins!
 
Mind....officially.....blown...
 
Center your vision and hold still for 85 seconds. You will see a Deity
 
does anyone else see the moving snakes?!?
 
My blurred guess, the background moves rather than the figure point, the time duration changed each layers since a difference in size. The brain balancing truth in 4th.
 
Stare at one spot and it stops...
 
so cool!!!!!!!!
LAST COMMENT!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
YAY!!!!
 
I can't see the effect at all. The pattern is slightly awkward to focus on, like a Bridget Riley painting, but I don't see anything rotating or moving.
ria b
 
my head hurts!
 
WOW!!!! THAT IS AMAZING!!!!
(i am impressed, and i do not get that impressed alot!)
 
I like it .. is realy amazing
 
OMG, I broke it! I know this graphic and it used to work for me, but since I have became an artist I guess I grew a resistance to it! Now they are completely still for me
 
Its stable pic .... \
 
Does that mean the more movement means the weaker the eye?
 
it moving cool istnt opitical illusions
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