News Release

Imagining a face reactivates face-detecting neurons in humans

Neurons encode different faces through distinct activity patterns that reactivate during recall

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

Imagining a Face Reactivates Face-Detecting Neurons in Humans

image: Face-selective neurons fire after seeing a face (left) and just before imagining a face (right). view more 

Credit: Khuvis et al., JNeurosci 2021

Face-sensitive neurons in humans employ distinct activity patterns to encode individual faces; those patterns reactivate when imagining the face, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

Human social interaction hinges on faces. In fact, faces are so important that the brain contains entire regions in the ventral temporal cortex devoted to facial recognition. In humans, the fusiform facial area activates in response to faces, and monkeys have single neurons that fire when shown a face. However, experimental limitations have prevented us from knowing how the human brain responds to and processes faces at the level of the single neuron.

To close this gap, Khuvis et al. measured the electrical activity of neurons in the ventral temporal cortex of eight adults undergoing invasive epilepsy monitoring. The participants viewed images of faces and other objects and then tried to remember and describe as many as possible. Groups of face-sensitive neurons activated in unique patterns while the participants viewed faces. That same group of neurons reactivated in the same pattern when a participant envisioned one of the faces they saw. Based on the activity pattern, the researchers were able to decode which face a person was seeing -- and even was thinking about.


Manuscript title: Face-Selective Units in Human Ventral Temporal Cortex Reactivate During Free Recall

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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