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Illusion Chasers

Illusion Chasers

Illusions, Delusions, and Everyday Deceptions

We are brain researchers who study the brain using illusions and magic—where reality is misaligned to how we see, think and feel – in addition to well-established neuroscience methods. Twitter: @SMartinezConde & @Stephen_Macknik. Web:

Everything you have ever seen, thought, or felt is a figment of your imagination. Every sound, every bright blue light, every fear, hope and joy, is the result of neural impulses and electrochemical signals flowing through your brain circuits. Your brain collects surprisingly little data about the environment through your senses, making a lot from very little. It constructs a grand simulation of reality that contains your feeling of self, making you feel like you can flip on the TV, pet the dog, kiss your spouse and tease your kids. You can do all those things of course, but only indirectly. The real world does exist outside your head—but you have never lived there. The only place in which you will ever exist is a dynamic concoction of neurotransmitters, proteins, lipids and salt water. How does it all work? It may be the most important question ever asked.

We are the authors of the internationally bestselling book, Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions. It describes how we learned to use magic to study neuroscience, a field so new that we got to name it ourselves: neuromagic. If you want to learn more the striking overlap of stage magic and lab neuroscience, and what it all means for your everyday life, read on at

We serve on Scientific American Mind’s board of advisers and write the Illusions column in Scientific American: Mind. We also run the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest, as the President and Vice-President of the Neural Correlate Society. See dozens of the world’s finest illusions at Our forthcoming book, Champions of Illusion, will be published by Scientific American/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Both of us are award-winning scientists and laboratory directors at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City. Susana runs the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Stephen runs the Laboratory of Translational Neuroscience, where we are Professors of Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Physiology/Pharmacology, and study the brain function of healthy individuals and neurological patients.

You can learn more about our labs and our research at:

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