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Medicine Science

Brain Region That Recognizes Faces Keeps Growing in Adulthood ( 47

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: Neurologists thought that your brain was basically set once you hit early childhood, but researchers from Stanford have discovered one part that keeps growing. Using new MRI imaging techniques, they found that the "fusiform gyrus," which is mostly responsible for recognizing human faces, keeps expanding well after other regions have stopped. The research could lead to more sophisticated cellular analysis of the brain and help patients with a disorder called "facial blindness." Normally, our brain actually loses neurons between early childhood and puberty in a process called "pruning." That applies to visual parts of the brain that identify things like cityscape or hallways, but not faces. The researchers used two different MRI machines to scan both brain activity and density in two different parts of the brain: the region responsible for identifying faces, and an area used for other types of visual recognition. They then compared those structures in the brains of children (aged five to 12) to adults between 22 to 28. It turned out that adults had thicker fusiform gyrus regions than kids, different levels of proteins and cells and more activity. By contrast, the other visual regions showed lower levels of development.
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Brain Region That Recognizes Faces Keeps Growing in Adulthood

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2017 @12:33PM (#53618113)
    "Fusiform Gyrus" is my porn name.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do more extroverted individuals notice an even greater increase in density... or was this increase noticed in members of the study despite sociability.

    In other words... it might be easy to think "well, we keep meeting new people through out our lives, and considering how important social ties are to humans, it only makes sense that one part of the brain would keep growing". But that naturally leads me to wonder "do loners notice the same brain growth?"

    • by e r ( 2847683 )
      How do you quantify extroversion? Don't you need to be able to quantify extroversion before you can correlate it with brain matter density?
      • For the purposes of the question asked, "extroverted individuals" is presumably a shorthand for "people who talk to new people more often" (and thus have more faces to remember). The true definition of extroversion isn't relevant.

  • Not for me (Score:4, Funny)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @01:03PM (#53618297)

    I can't remember faces to save my life. It's great, you get to meet a lot of new people every day...

    • Re:Not for me (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @01:15PM (#53618385) Homepage

      I can remember random movie lines from films and TV shows I saw decades ago, but faces and names drop through my brain like water through a sieve. I've gotten very good at faking knowing who a person is, but I still have trip-up moments where I need to ask my wife who a person was.

      "That was Jenny. Don't you remember? We saw her, her husband Tom, and their kids Jane and Billy on June 3rd three years ago while shopping for clothes. We talked for 30 minutes about how our children were doing in school. Remember now?"

      I never remember it. I have no clue how my wife retains all that "social information." My brain just doesn't seem to be built for that.

      • "I never remember it. I have no clue how my wife retains all that "social information." My brain just doesn't seem to be built for that."

        My fusiform gyrus seems to be stuck in infancy too. But I can identify people by voice, rather than by face.

        • by epine ( 68316 )

          Memory is complex.

          I'd rank myself at the top of the spectrum in what Paul Ekman / Daniel Goleman term "cognitive empathy" (also called perspective-taking []).

          Yet I can draw the most amazing blanks when encountering someone I haven't seen recently—for the first five minutes. Gradually it all comes back. I tend to recognize people far quicker by their physical mannerisms than by face, dress, or other static aspects of appearance. I recall ambiguities I've detected in people far better than their outward

          • For me and my wife, I'm sure that Autism plays something of a role. My son was diagnosed as autistic a few years back (Asperger's Syndrome) and while reading up on the subject everything clicked. I've always known I was different from "normal people," but never knew why. Growing up and loving Star Trek, I always associated with Data - always trying to figure out social situations and feeling utterly baffled by things that most people got so easily. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good. I can have actual

      • Same here. I can rattle off , "Clive Llyod scored 242 not out in the Bombay match, sixth test in the series, Indian second innings collapsed, only Brijesh Patel broke 50". But names and faces? ... complete blank.

        My conversation would be like: "Did you see Avinash?"


        "With Kamala, Blue sari, red necklace..."


        "He had gold rimmed glasses... Plaid shirt ..."

        "not sure"


        "Yes! they had the station wagon, silver, New Jersey plates, Pink Genesha on the dash..."

        • Perhaps if you can trick yourself into seeing people as objects...

          • Ironically, seeing people as objects can be a great help in crowds. My wife hates crowds. I don't love them, but don't mind venturing into them as much. My theory is that she sees all these people, interprets attitudes about us based on what they do or say near us, and sees their actions and judges how rude these people are being. I, on the other hand, view the crowds of people as a series of mobile objects. I'm not so rude as to just barrel through them, knocking them over, but I also don't care if one of

    • A more interesting experiment would be to take an adult that doesn't recall faces well and then train them. There are a number of mental tricks that some people who's livelihood depends on social graces use to help remember people. Scan the brain before and after. See if there is enough change to be visible on the fMRI.

  • A few years back where Google Glasses were gaining in popularity (and controversy), I was looking forward to them. I wanted them to come with a facial recognition application that would put little floating name tags over people's heads along with some pertinent information.

    "Name: Murray Douglas. Known Via: Work. Association: Developed department X website for him in June 2007. Last sighting: Two years ago in the mall while clothes shopping."

    I'd completely buy a pair of computerized glasses if I never had

    • there's a Black Mirror episode about something like it, I think
    • On multiple occasions I've had people come up to me, remembering who I was, and I've had no idea who they were.

      I had one girl walk up to me and start talking to me excitedly once, as if I were an old friend. I had worked with her about 4 years before. After she jogged my memory for a bit about who she was, I recalled that, yes- I did remember that I worked with her at a previous job (one I had for 3 years) and not only did I work with her at the same path- our paths at work would cross a couple times a we

    • ... or even worse, misremembering and calling someone I've known for years by the wrong name ...

      During sex.

      • Never that bad, but recently someone I've known for years bought my book and wanted me to sign it for them. My mind picked that exact moment to misplace their name. I asked if she wanted it personalized (thinking maybe I could get away with just signing my name) and she said "Of course, after all, we're friends." I was trapped. My mind offered up "Susan" so I asked if I should make it out to Sue or Susan. Needless to say, that wasn't even close to her name.

        On the bright side, with all my embarrassment over

  • Without even having read the article yet (looking forward to it though), it makes complete sense for this to be the case. If the brain didn't continue to grow and adapt this way, you'd have a tough time recognizing someone's face after a few years. Who hasn't gone to a reunion or some other social event and recognized someone that you hadn't seen in years, even decades?

  • What out, here comes his head!! (because he meets a lot of new people)

  • I wonder if this is related to poorer eyesight as we age. If we assume recognizing a face from a modest distance and distinguishing one person form another is more important than some other recognition tasks (recognition tasks?). It would certainly seem harder. So maybe your body just assumes it better up it's game as your eyes degenerate or a Cave Lion eats one of them. It would also be interesting to see if there's a correlation between poorer eyesight (not necessarily due to age) and this. Although I ass
  • "Normally, our brain actually loses neurons between early childhood and puberty in a process called "pruning." "

    Our priest said, that puberty process killing neurons was called 'jerking off'.

  • ... meet more people.

  • I'm brilliant at remembering names and faces.

    I do, however, have trouble linking the two together.

  • Because I'll be damned if I can recognize people by their faces most of the time.
    Yes, with long-time exposure, I can kinda get it. But for most people, I struggle over even tiny information.

    Probably comes from being dropped on my head so much as a kid.

  • Surely this will change now that everyone has a book of faces that recognises them for you.

  • I left my office one day and a guy walks up to me and says, "Hey, want a ride to your car?" and I stare blankly at this weirdo with a beard for what felt like minutes (probably around 10 seconds) filling in the time with my excellent improv skills, "Um, uhhh", scrunching my face up, he seemed excited or amused, "I'm parked across the street," he says, finally I realize it's my boss that I've worked with on a daily basis the past 2 or 3 years, and all day that very same day. That was before I realized "faci
  • When I was considerably younger, I had great difficulty remembering names, could never correctly identify actors in new films (even tho' I'd seen them inseveral previous ones), and so on.

    I can't say for sure whether it's aging -- of which I seem to have done quite a lot -- or careful self-trainng that has changed my ability a bit. First thing I learned about the movie-actor thing was to listen to the voice rather than study the face. That worked.

    But even now, I'm much better at remembering people's dog

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