I have started watching the new PBS 6 part series “The Brain with David Eagleman.” I was telling housefly a little about it. What really caught my attention was when they run a split screen comparison of sprinters starting a race. On one screen, you see the runners start the race when they hear the sound of a pistol fired. On the other screen, the runners start the race when they see a light flash on. The two races start in slow motion, with the bang of the gun synced to the exact same moment as the flash of light. In slow motion, it’s clear that the runners are able to process the sound way before the visual. They start running way earlier from the bang of the gun.
David Eagleman discusses how so many different systems need to act in concert to process visual information, and how all that processing lags our reaction to visual stimulus. Sound is more directly processed by the brain. While there is still a small amount of lag from the natural wiring, we are able to receive and react to aural information much faster. I thought it was a really neat way to illustrate the importance of paying attention to sound in Quake 2. When I’m stoned and listening to music playing Quake 2 CTF, I’m not going to shoot until I see you. When my opponent is h0ps, he hears me coming around the corner and has clicked the fire button before I even see him.