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CCN Brown Bag Series

Wednesday, November 01, 2017,
  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 115

Zachary Roper

Department of Psychology

Vanderbilt University

Limits of Vision: Can humans detect images beyond classical correlations?


For decades, psychophysicists have explored the limits of perception. For instance, the minimal number of photons needed to produce a reliable visual percept was thought to be ten in the 1940s, and no fewer than seven in the 1970s. However, using state of the art equipment, a recent study demonstrated that humans can detect a single photon better than chance. This finding together with the advanced equipment available today opens the door for psychologists to explore a new form of visual perception – one that doesn’t rely on intensity images, but rather on correlated information from a quantum entangled source. Within the broader context of human information processing, it has been shown that quantum theoretic cognitive models can outperform classical models. More specifically, the possibility of quantum entanglement in vision is supported by magnetoreception in the avian retina where the Earth’s magnetic field creates small perturbations of the cryptochrome molecule. To my knowledge, it is currently unknown whether primates can directly perceive quantum entanglement. In the present talk, I will outline a possible approach to test for quantum entanglement in primate vision. This approach begins with a classical analogue for which I will present pilot data. In a psychophysical paradigm, discrimination performance was measured for dichoptically presented correlated noise patches. Retinotopically aligned subsets of each noise patch were correlated or anti-correlated to varying degrees. Positively correlated subsets were detected better than chance at a lower threshold of 20%. Importantly, I will use these pilot data from the classical version to describe hypothetical results for a proposed quantum version of this experiment. If realized, the proposed experiment could extend the known limits of information processing in primate vision.