Mind-bending ‘perpetual diamond’ optical illusion tricks the brain

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A mind-bending optical illusion has been created by scientists which manipulates the human brain into thinking a stationary diamond is moving in various directions.  

A series of flashing edges and well-timed strobe lighting in the background makes the brain think the shape is moving up, down, left and right when it never moves. 

Researchers Oliver Flynn and Arthur Shapiro from American University in Washington DC published the illusion which they called the ‘Perpetual Diamond’.

The effect is created when the background and the diamond’s sides flash in various ways, tricking the way the brain processes information. 

Various stimuli are received differently and the researchers were able to fine-tune the process to specify which location it moves in. 

The end of the clip sees the flashing borders removed and the diamond then appears as stationary.  

In the study the authors write: ‘The Perpetual Diamond produces motion continuously and unambiguously in one direction despite never physically changing location. 

‘The phenomenon consists of a steady, mid-luminance diamond bordered by four thin edge strips and a surrounding background field. 

‘The direction of motion is determined by the relative phases of the luminance modulation between the edge strips and the background.’

The square behind the diamond is split into four quarters and the side of the diamond is organised so it flashes at a specific time relative to its respective quadrant. 

For example, the upwards illusion relies on having the two top edges of the diamond quadrature phase ahead of the background.

Two bottom edges are phase behind the background.

Variations of this create the illusion of it going up, down, left and right.  

The full findings can be found in the study published in the journal i-Perception. 

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