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The neural network necessary for 'normal face' recognition

Understanding the fundamental brain mechanism for 'Thatcher illusion'

National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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IMAGE: Image 1 shows a normal (left) and an inverted face image (the eyes and nose were tampered with) (right). Unless the image is turned over, it is difficult to realize... view more

Credit: National Institute for Physiological Sciences

This news release is available in Japanese.

The neural network necessary for normal face recognition has been not fully understood yet until now. Here, the research group of Dr. Daisuke Matsuyoshi (present affiliation: The University of Tokyo) led by Prof. Ryusuke Kakigi and Prof. Norihiro Sadato of the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS), National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS), by using the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), revealed that suppression of the brain area responsible for object recognition by that for face recognition is necessarily for "normal face" recognition. The researchers simulated mathematically networks between the brain areas and showed that not only brain areas that execute face recognition but also brain areas that had been considered non-essential to face recognition are important for "normal face" recognition. This result was published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the weekly official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC.

The research group focused on the phenomenon of becoming markedly-difficult to recognize a face that is presented upside-down (such as so-called "Thatcher illusion"). The group investigated the neural network in the brain during face recognition by using fMRI. Accordingly, they found that when faces were shown upright, the brain area responsible for object recognition was suppressed by the area responsible for face recognition. In contrast, when faces were inverted, the object recognition area was not suppressed by the face recognition area and the brain is in a state of "being clearly not sure if it is a face or an object". In addition, mathematical simulation revealed that neural networks between the multiple areas in the brain are necessarily for "normal face" recognition.

Prof. Ryusuke Kakigi says, "In this research, we have found that not only brain areas that execute face recognition but also brain areas that had been considered non-essential to face recognition are important for "normal face" recognition. It could be that disorders of face recognition such as developmental prosopagnosia may be attributable to the brain networks".

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This research was carried out as part of the following: Project D of the Strategic Research Program for Brain Sciences of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) (Research Director: Norihiro Sadato); Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research of MEXT and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Research Project: Developing a communication environment by decoding and controlling implicit interpersonal information (Research Director: Makio Kashino, Executive Manager/Senior Distinguished Scientist, Human Information Science Laboratory, NTT Communication Science Laboratories, NTT Corporation) in the research area of Creation of Human-Harmonized Information Technology for Convivial Society (Research Supervisor: Toyoaki Nishida, Professor, Graduate school of Informatics, Kyoto University), CREST, JST Strategic Basic Research Programs; Center of Human-friendly Robotics based on Cognitive Neuroscience, Global COE Program, Osaka University.

Points:

1. The research showed that suppression of the brain area responsible for object recognition by that for face recognition is necessarily for "normal face" recognition.

2. Disorders of face recognition such as developmental prosopagnosia may be attributable to the brain networks that they found in this research.

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