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Can't place that face?
Date:7/28/2010

A specific area in our brains is responsible for processing information about human and animal faces, both how we recognize them and how we interpret facial expressions. Now, Tel Aviv University research is exploring what makes this highly specialized part of the brain unique, a first step to finding practical applications for that information.

In her "Face Lab" at Tel Aviv University, Dr. Galit Yovel of TAU's Department of Psychology is trying to understand the mechanisms at work in the face area of the brain called the "fusiform gyrus" of the brain. She is combining cognitive psychology with techniques like brain imaging and electrophysiology to study how the brain processes information about faces. Her most recent research on the brain's face-processing mechanisms was published in the Journal of Neuroscience and Human Brain Mapping.

The study of face recognition does more than provide an explanation for embarrassing memory lapses. For instance, it may help business executives better match names with faces, and more important can lead to better facial recognition software to identify terrorists or criminals. Similar to faces, bodies are also processed by distinct brain areas. How we perceive faces is not totally intuitive, she says, and therefore raises the question of how this information is combined in our brain to understand how separate face and body areas generate a whole body-image impression.

Identifying "face blindness"

In her research, Dr. Yovel has found that we are better able to recognize faces when we regularly see and interact with them in meaningful settings. It's as though the face-processing sections of the brain ― the fusiform face area being the most distinct ― recognizes faces holistically. Additions to your face, such as a beard or glasses, are assimilated into or incorporated into the face recognition gestalt of the brain, unlike other elements that are irrelevant to
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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