What's in a face?

Friday, March 22, 2019 - 12:20 in Biology & Nature

Our brains are incredibly good at processing faces, and even have specific regions specialized for this function. But what face dimensions are we observing? Do we observe general properties first, then look at the details? Or are dimensions such as gender or other identity details decoded interdependently? In a study published in Nature Communications, neuroscientists at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research measured the response of the brain to faces in real-time, and found that the brain first decodes properties such as gender and age before drilling down to the specific identity of the face itself. While functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revealed an incredible level of detail about which regions of the brain respond to faces, the technology is less effective at telling us when these brain regions become activated. This is because fMRI measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow; when neurons become active, local blood...

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