Study Finds We Literally See The Future

A new study has pretty much confirmed that your brain really does have a mind of its own.

Have you ever noticed how sports stars are able to hit, kick or catch a ball so quickly and so accurately without getting hit themselves and wondered how they did it?

According to a new study from Melbourne University, it’s not just years of practice.

There’s actually a special process that occurs in the brain in order for our reflexes to kick in, and some people -- like athletes -- are better at this process than others.

Take tennis grand slam champion Serena Williams for example. When Williams sees a tennis ball hurtling towards her from across the net – often more than 100 kilometres an hour – she’s seeing it happen in real time.

But delays in how this image is processed from the eye to the brain, means her awareness of the ball flying towards her lags behind its actual occurrence.

In order to make it possible for Williams to flawlessly return the ball back over the net, the brain has developed a way to overcome this lag so effortlessly that we are unaware that a delay is even occurring and can then seamlessly interact with rapidly moving objects – be it a flying tennis ball, driving down a motorway or chasing a dog through the park.

Image: Getty

This means that our brains are literally always one step ahead of us and already working out what they should do next in real time.

According to lead researcher Dr Hinze Hogendoorn, the most interesting thing about this is how this brain process actually works.

“The brain ‘knows’ how long the eye movement is going to take, uses that to calculate in which direction to send the eye movement, and also uses that same signal to tell awareness where the object is in the first place,” Hogendoorn explains to ten daily.

Basically, our brains work in overtime to compensate, for the time lost in transmitting what we see to how we react. It also works out exactly how much time we’ll need for our physical reflexes to kick into whatever is happening.

In simple terms, this means that while you’re seeing a ball fly towards you, your brain has already considered how long it will take for it to get to you, where exactly it will hit and told you to duck so that you don’t get hurt.

In fact, this process is so quick that the brain not only anticipates a certain event occurring in the immediate future, but sees it and has enough time to recognise if a problem will occur and fix it.

Image: Getty

If you’re with us so far, this basically means one thing. We. Are. Literally. Constantly. Seeing. Into. The. Future.

“Our brains are actually predicting what the world will be like at a certain moment,” says Hogendoorn.

While this future may only be a few seconds away, this neurological phenomenon is amazing because the lag causes our conscious awareness of the world to fall behind as our brain processes the information.

“The brain pretty much rewrites its own history.”

Hogendoorn, who has been working in the field of behavioural neuro-processes for over a decade says the next step in his current research is to investigate what happens when our brain’s predictions go wrong.

While this research is challenging ideas of the perceptual system, it’s completely blown our minds, so while we try to process exactly how our brain processes, you can check out this cool Ted Talk where Hogendoorn explains what he calls the “illusion of now.”

And if there’s one thing to take from this mind-boggling new study, it’s that there’s no time quite like the present… literally.