Robot 6

Science corner: Moving pictures

From the "Hokusai Manga"

From the "Hokusai Manga"

The comics page is static, yet artists have many ways to make the characters move: speed lines, superimposed images, or simply having the character lean in the direction of motion. The 19th-century Japanese artist Hokusai used another technique, placing his characters in unstable postures that often defy gravity.

Curious about how the brain detects motion, a group of researchers at Kyoto University showed images from the Hokusai Manga to test subjects while observing their brain functions using MRI. Although it’s hard to imagine reading a comic during an MRI, the researchers found that indeed, when the subjects saw Hokusai’s off-balance wrestlers and swordsmen, the parts of their brains that sense motion lit up, while his drawings of priests standing still had no such effect. Next, the researchers are planning to see if drawings of animals or even ocean waves can trigger the same response as the human figures.

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