Neuroscientists previously established that this region, which is called the fusiform face area (FFA) and is located in the temporal lobe, is responsible for a particularly effective form of visual recognition. But there has been an ongoing debate about whether this area is hard-wired to recognize faces because of their importance to us or if it is a more general mechanism that allows us to rapidly recognize objects that we work with extensively.
The flattened hemisphere of a car expert subject, with hot colors showing areas that were more responsivee for faces, including the fusiform face area outlined in white. The inset shows how the researchers sorted small volumes into those maximally responsive to different categories. It shows considerable territory responding to cars within the FFA.
In the new study published this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Vanderbilt researchers report that they have recorded the activity in the FFAs of a group of automobile aficionados at extremely high resolution using one the most powerful MRI scanners available for human use and found no evidence that there is a special area devoted exclusively to facial recognition. Instead, they found that the FFA of the auto experts was filled with small, interspersed patches that respond strongly to photos of faces and autos both.
“We can’t say that the same groups of neurons process both facial images and objects of expertise, but we have now mapped the area in enough detail to rule out the possibility of an area exclusively devoted to facial recognition,” said Rankin McGugin, who conducted this research as part of her doctoral dissertation.
According to Isabel Gauthier, the David K. Wilson Chair of Psychology, who directed the study, the demonstration that the FFA can support expertise for other categories may help scientists improve treatments for people who have difficulty recognizing faces, like individuals with autism. In addition, identifying the neural basis of individual differences in learning visual skills is an important step toward mapping the brain chemistry involved in learning may eventually lead to the development of drugs that make it easier for individuals to acquire different kinds of visual expertise.
For most objects, research has shown that people use a piecemeal identification scheme that focuses on parts of the object. By contrast, experts, for faces or for cars, use a more holistic approach that is extremely fast and improves their performance in recognition tasks.
The scientists point out that visual expertise may be more the norm than the exception: “It helps the doctor reading X-rays, the judge looking at show dogs, the person learning to identify birds or to play chess; it even helped us when we learned brain anatomy!” Gauthier said.
Gauthier and her colleagues have further found that people who are better at learning to recognize one subject should also be better at learning another. Recent work by her group found that those who did a better job at identifying objects in which they were most interested were also better at identifying faces.
Christopher Gatenby at the University of Washington and John Gore, director of Vanderbilt’s Institute of Imaging Science, also contributed to the study. The research was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, National Science Foundation grant SBE-0542013, National Eye Institute grant EY013441-06A2 and the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center.
Visit Research News @ Vanderbilt for more research news from Vanderbilt. [Media Note: Vanderbilt has a 24/7 TV and radio studio with a dedicated fiber optic line and ISDN line. Use of the TV studio with Vanderbilt experts is free, except for reserving fiber time.]
David F. Salisbury | Vanderbilt University
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences