Sunday, June 2, 2013

How Are Visual Illusions Used In Medicine And Arts And What Was Their Role In History?

01 Jun 2013 

A conference at the University of Leicester will explore the medical, psychological, historical and religious uses of visual illusions

Experts from around the world are set to gather in Leicester to discuss how optical illusions have played an important part in medicine and art through the centuries.

A University of Leicester conference will assess visual illusions throughout history in light of recent findings which show that visual illusions can alter brain function and pain.

Visual Illusions - past, present and future use will be held at the University's Bennett Building on Friday, 7 June.

This conference will bring experts from around the world together to examine the medical, psychological, historical and religious use of visual illusions, and their influence on the arts and society.

Examples to be considered at the conference include:
  • Mirror therapy - where a mirror is used to help treat people with phantom limb pain. This occurs when patients feel pain in a limb after it has been amputated - and helps to ease the pain in their "phantom" limb. It also helps in other pain conditions and in stroke to improve movement
  • Rubber hand illusion - in which a dummy hand and a patient's own hand are stroked in the same way simultaneously, which can lead the person to feel that the dummy hand is their own
  • Hallucination and illusion theories in the 19th century - a period which gave rise to secular, psychical and spiritual theories about illusions that influenced the development of modern psychological and psychotherapeutic theories, and what the brain does when we look at art and architecture
The event has been organised by Professor Steven King, Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Law and Director of the Centre for Medical Humanities and Annegret Hagenberg, Research Fellow of the Centre.

The day will feature talks from academics from around the world - with keynote lectures from Dr Melita Giummarra, of Monash University, Australia, Professor Eric Altschuler, of New Jersey Medical School, USA and Dr Nick Holmes of the University of Reading.

It will also feature demonstrations of the illusions - which guests will be able to participate in.

There will be performances by the IMCO improvisational dance company, and the event will also feature an exhibition of artwork around the topic of visual illusions.

Annegret Hagenberg, Research Fellow of the Centre for Medical Humanities, said: "This conference aims to achieve a more complete understanding of Visual Illusions in the Arts and Science, and to point the way forward to research in this field.

"It brings together distinguished researchers in the fields from three different continents who are involved with Visual Illusions in Neuroscience, Psychology, History, Arts, Sociology and the Medical Humanities themselves, creating a network for progress in research and clinical application for the benefit of the public and people suffering from pain or motor impairment.

"We will hear, for example, how during the 19th century many theories about illusions emerged and influenced modern psychology and psychiatry as well as literature and the arts and how modern neuroscience was applied by Old Masters of Art.

"More recently, with the discovery of mirror therapy by Professor V.S. Ramachandran and the further use of mirrors to regain function in stroke by Professor Eric Altschuler who is a key speaker at our conference, the new understanding of the brain was accelerated: the brain is not hard-wired but very flexible and can be influenced with sometimes very simple tricks.

"This has opened new areas for research that are fascinating - such as the rubber hand illusion and transferring sensations to another person through the use of visual illusions. Dr Melita Giummarra and Dr Nick Holmes are expert researchers in this field and are both key speakers at the conference.

"Other speakers will tell us how the use of a simple mirror can have a huge effect in rehabilitation and modern technology takes this further into virtual reality and 3D set-ups to reduce pain and regain function.

"This conference will increase our understanding by looking at the topic from all these different areas. It is hoped that new insights will arise to benefit all: researchers, clinicians, and the interested public."

It will be held at the Bennett Building, University of Leicester, on Friday, 7 June. Bookings are taken up to 1 June here

Source: University of Leicester
 Retrieved from

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