Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Carnegie Mellon researchers open window into the ability of humans to recognize faces

05.04.2005


Recognizing faces is effortless for most people, and it’s an ability that provides great evolutionary and social advantages. But this ability is impaired in people who have suffered brain damage or in those with a rare congenital condition, and research by Carnegie Mellon University psychologists reveals startling insights into how the brains of those individuals operate. Psychology Professor Marlene Behrmann and postdoctoral associate Galia Avidan have found that people with congenital prosopagnosia--in which their ability to recognize faces is impaired from birth--are not just deficient at recognizing individuals they know, but they are also poor at simply discriminating between two faces when presented side by side. The researchers also have discovered through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans that, contrary to their expectations, the regions of the brain that are activated when normal individuals perceive and recognize faces also are activated in individuals with congenital prosopagnosia (CP). Behrmann and Avidan will summarize the results of their findings in the April issue of the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.



"This now presents a large scientific challenge. Given that the impaired behavior in those individuals with prosopagnosia is a function of the brain, we need to identify the neural system that has given rise to this altered pattern of behavior," Behrmann said. "The detective work is well under way."

Unlike the acquired form of prosopagnosia--which results from brain damage such as that suffered in a stroke--congenital prosopagnosia can go undetected, as the person has no means of comparison with normal face processing skills. This can have socially debilitating consequences, and on occasion children with this condition have been misdiagnosed as having autism.


"The potential ramifications of CP are best captured in the words of one individual whom we have had the opportunity to test: ’I have always been a rather extreme introvert, uncomfortable in groups of people and in social activities. I sort of tend to want to be a hermit. However, I find it relaxing to go window-shopping in a mall. A crowd of a hundred strangers is more relaxing than a dozen neighbors whom I know,’" Behrmann said.

Behrmann and Galia said that much remains to be learned from the individuals in their research. They have begun to examine the anatomical details of the brains of their participants, and preliminary findings show that some brain structures are smaller in the region known to control face recognition. Congenital prosopagnosia seems to run in families, which suggests a genetic basis, although that is not true in every case and Behrmann cautioned against calling the condition a genetic disorder. Unfortunately, a cure for the disorder is unlikely to be found anytime soon.

"The work on CP is in its infancy and we still need to understand the psychological and neural aspects of the disorder in detail. It is possible, however, that some forms of intervention may become possible in the near future," Behrmann said.

Jonathan Potts | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cmu.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht World first: Massive thrombosis removed during early pregnancy
20.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Therapy of preterm birth in sight?
19.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>