Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Telling Friend From Foes? Researchers Find Different Brain Regions Activated By Faces

Date:
February 20, 1998
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
The recognition of faces is so fast and effortless it's easy to overlook the complexity of the brain systems responsible, says a Duke University Medical Center researcher who has helped identify two critical brain regions involved in our ability to process faces.

PHILADELPHIA --The recognition of faces is so fast and effortless it's easy to overlook the complexity of the brain systems responsible, says a Duke University Medical Center researcher who has helped identify two critical brain regions involved in our ability to process faces.

The first region lies on the underside of the brain and appears specialized for rapidly distinguishing faces from other objects. The second region is located on the side of the brain, and it becomes involved when one views a face in which the eyes or mouth are moving.

"There is something special, and fascinating, about face perception," said Gregory McCarthy who prepared a report on his work for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"It ties together sensation, recognition, emotion, and memory in different areas of the brain within 200 milliseconds after viewing a face," said McCarthy, director of the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke.

The results of his newest study, undertaken at Yale University and the West Haven Veterans Administration Medical Center before he came to Duke, will be published in the March 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Co-authors of the findings are Truett Allison and Aina Puce at Yale.

They found that the area that processes eye and mouth movements is close to, but distinct from, other brain regions that respond to most other kinds of movements.

"The brain may need a dedicated region to process facial movements," McCarthy speculated in an interview, "because eye and mouth movements convey a lot of information, including important social signals." He added that knowledge about what people say is aided by unconsciously watching their lips move. That might be why, for example, people are disturbed by a video in which the visual and audio tracks are not synchronized.

McCarthy's group earlier mapped a region in the underside of the brain that discerns faces from among other everyday objects such as telephones and bicycles. Other groups have identified other brain regions such as the amygdala that identifies the emotional state of the face being seen. It appears then that different brain systems work together to identify a face and to extract important information related to social and verbal communication, McCarthy said.

Among the many questions about face perception yet to be answered is how the brain developed this sophisticated system to recognize and process faces. McCarthy asked, "Is this something that is learned or is it present in the brain from early on? I favor the idea that this is a primitive process that is tuned by experience -- there is a definite survival advantage to recognizing friend from foe."

McCarthy and his colleagues gathered information about these brain areas by functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and by making electrical recordings directly from the brain surface in patients in whom electrodes were implanted by surgeons to identify brain areas involved in epileptic seizures. Functional MRI measures changes in blood oxygenation in small areas of the brain that are activated by a stimulus, such as the picture of a face. The active brain tissue requires more blood flow to deliver oxygen, just as a leg or arm muscle would require during exercise.

The machine does not use damaging X-rays, so it can be used repeatedly to study the architecture of a patient's brain. And because the location of some important brain areas related to language may be different in different people, this information can be helpful to surgeons in reducing neurological deficits following neurosurgery.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Telling Friend From Foes? Researchers Find Different Brain Regions Activated By Faces." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980220063618.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (1998, February 20). Telling Friend From Foes? Researchers Find Different Brain Regions Activated By Faces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980220063618.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Telling Friend From Foes? Researchers Find Different Brain Regions Activated By Faces." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980220063618.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A new study found fewer deaths from prescription drug overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana. But experts disagree on the results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) The American Heart Association's first policy statement on electronic cigarettes backs them as a last resort to help smokers quit and calls for more regulation to keep them away from youth. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Newsy (Aug. 25, 2014) The American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest group pushing for middle schools and high schools to start later, for the sake of their kids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins