The mysteries of human perception are endlessly fascinating, and a good optical illusion is a brilliant reminder of how our brains can be so easily fooled. For over a decade the Neural Correlate Society has been running an annual competition celebrating the best new illusions, and the 2018 winners are sure to short-circuit your brain … in the best possible way.

The winner of this year's competition went to legendary Japanese mathematician Kokichi Sugihara, for his piece entitled Triply Ambiguous Object. Sugihara's incredible illusions have been winning awards for years, playing on the ways that perspective and reflections can dramatically change one's perception of single objects.

His first-prize-winning illusion this year is one of his most impressive to date, with a 2D object presenting in three different permutations depending on the specific viewpoint. The object is essentially a 2D picture with a pin holding a flag stuck into it.

"The picture is placed on a horizontal surface and it is seen in slanted directions so that one group of parallel lines appears to be vertical," explains the submission accompanying the video. "Then we perceive three different structures because they are compressed in different directions. The pole with a flag represents the direction of the gravity, which strengthens the illusion."

The second place prize went to a UK-based team for a compelling video showing how background patterns can be altered to induce interesting changes to one's perception of a foreground image. Third prize was just as fascinating, with an illusion that intriguingly demonstrates how the direction of motion in a flickering image can be reversed simply by changing the colors in the image.

The Neural Correlate Society (NCS), a community of perception scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, and artists, originally set up this compelling competition to celebrate the science of perception, and to better communicate the occasional fascinating disconnect between physical reality and our perceptual experience.

"How we see the outside world – our perception – is generated indirectly by brain mechanisms, and so all perception is illusory to some extent," the NCS explains, outlining the origins of the competition. "The study of illusions is critical to how we understand sensory perception, and many ophthalmic and neurological diseases."

Take a look at a couple more of our favorite illusions from previous year's competitions in the videos below.