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
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences