News Release

The brain learns faces fastest in person

The brain signal linked to face familiarity is strongest after getting to know someone in-person

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

The Brain Learns Faces Fastest In Person

image: Experimental paradigm and EEG analysis methods. view more 

Credit: Ambrus et al., JNeurosci 2021

The neural representation of a familiar face strengthens faster when you see someone in person, according to a new study published in JNeurosci.

The brain loves faces -- there's even an interconnected network of brain areas dedicated to face-processing. Despite all the research on how the brain sees faces, little is known about how the neural representation of a face changes as it becomes familiar.

To track how familiarity brain signals change, Ambrus et al. measured participants' brain activity with EEG before and after getting to know different faces. Participants were exposed to faces in one of three ways: perceptual exposure (a sorting game), media exposure (watching a TV show), and in-person (chatting with lab members). A jolt of brain activity appeared on the EEG around 400 milliseconds after viewing a face; the strength of the signal was tied to the familiarity of the face. The type of exposure affected how much the signal changed: in-person exposure strengthened it the most, followed by media exposure. Perceptual exposure had very little impact on the familiarity signal. These results emphasize the importance of in-person interactions when getting to know new people.


Paper title: Getting to Know You: Emerging Neural Representations During Face Familiarization

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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