Public Release: 

Learning to see friendly faces in different places

Study demonstrates how the brain learns to recognize an individual face regardless of where it appears in space

Society for Neuroscience


IMAGE: Figure 2. Stable and idiosyncratic biases in identification in Experiment 1. A) Psychometric fit for two subjects from both sessions. Colors indicate location (see colors in bottom left corner); actual data (points)... view more 

Credit: Visconti di Oleggio Castello et al., eNeuro (2018)

Meaningful social interactions train visual cortex neurons to recognize a familiar face in different visual locations, suggests new research published in eNeuro. The study demonstrates how the brain learns to perceive other people as individuals.

Previous research has shown that attributes of the same face can appear to be different depending on where it is presented in the visual field. For example, a face with unisex features can be seen as a male face in one place and as a female face in another. This finding led Ida Gobbini, Matteo Visconti di Oleggio Castello, and colleagues to investigate how regular interactions with the people in one's life influence perception of such familiar faces.

The researchers asked graduate students to identify photographs of their peers presented on a screen in various locations around a fixation point. They found participants who reported stronger familiarity with one another more consistently recognized the other individual in different parts of their visual field. The team further simulated how repeated social interactions may tune independent populations of neurons to recognize an individual face regardless of where it appears in space.


Article: Idiosyncratic, retinotopic bias in face identification modulated by familiarity*


Corresponding author: M. Ida Gobbini (University of Bologna, Italy and Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA), and Matteo Visconti di Oleggio Castello (Dartmouth College),

*A preprint of this manuscript has been posted on bioRxiv

About eNeuro

eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.

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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