If an object like a thrown ball or a car is heading towards us, we know that we can react and take effective avoidance strategies very quickly. How do the neurons in our brains manage to work so fast to determine the trajectory and decide what is the best avoidance strategy? It is clearly automatic and not done by our conscious brains.
A recent study, the conclusions of which are summarized in this article, sheds some light on how the brain manages to rapidly do all the complicated calculations needed in such situations. The authors of the study state that “One interesting aspect of the computation is that it appears to be about the same as what other people have found in flies and beetles, suggesting that evolution solved this problem once, at least a few hundred million years ago.”
That makes sense. The ability to react quickly to avoid sudden dangers would undoubtedly be a useful survival skill that likely became hard-wired in the brain a long time ago.
The abstract of the article titled Hierarchical processing of complex motion along the primate dorsal visual pathway that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is openly available but the text of the full article is available only with a subscription.