What Does Your Brain See?

_Ortiz Big Apple Motorcycle SchoolBy Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School

What Does Your Brain See?

The off-season is a good time to work on your perception and cognitive skills. Visual Perception is the ability to interpret information from the effects of visible light reaching the eye. We see images as a whole rather than in parts. However, images can be broken down into their visual elements: line, shape, texture, and color. These elements are to images as grammar is to language. Together these elements allow our eyes to see full images and our brain to recognize them.
Imagine that you are walking down the street looking at a bus. As you approach the bus, its image on the retina of your eye gets larger and larger. Certain proportions also change. Yet, your brain does not interpret these changes as real changes in the bus itself. It continues to “see” the bus as the same object no matter how close or how far you are from it.

Why is this important to you? It is part of what happens when people say they don’t “see” motorcycles, or when you as a rider don’t “see” an oncoming vehicle in your path of travel. The ability to see and understand what you are seeing while riding is one of the most important skills you need to develop to be a safe and proficient motorcyclist.
A current term to describe this is brain fitness. That’s because the more that scientists learn about the brain, the more we realize how important it is to keep our brains, as well as our bodies, in good shape. Evidence now suggests that the brain is a flexible and renewable organ and that as you age your brain is able to maintain and even improve its current level of performance. This is especially true if you make sure to lead an active and mentally stimulating lifestyle.
Well, like other things in life, achieving brain fitness requires some work. The reason for this is that the brain, obviously, is no fool. As you go through your daily routine, there are many tasks that you repeat, over and over. Your brain is an extremely efficient processor of information, so it creates shortcuts for accomplishing these repetitive cognitive tasks.
For example, when you were first learning to drive a car, you probably had a hard time carrying on a conversation at the same time, because your brain was busy processing all the new stimuli and cognitive tasks that are involved in driving. Once you become an experienced driver, it’s much easier to talk to passengers, enjoy the scenery, and drive at the same time. It’s obviously a good thing that many of the cognitive tasks of driving become automated, because it allows your brain to divert its attention and resources to other things.

You can find out more about the level of your cognitive skills by taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) online perception challenge available at www.msf-usa.org/riderperception.aspx Give it a try and see how you do!
When winter weather keeps you indoors some ways to improve brain fitness are with apps like lumosity.com that has customized brain games, ted.com with videos about surprisingly entertaining subjects, or wander virtually through a museum with artsy.net. Of course outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, etc. help keep the mind and body fit.
Brain fitness can affect your ability to see and understand what you are seeing while riding. It is one of the many skills needed to be a safe and proficient motorcyclist.