Face of another person activates socially important information in the brain

(ORDO NEWS) — Memory directly depends on the information entering the brain, and visual images are one of the key ones. It is now known that for the development of memory it is more useful to look at human (or monkey) faces than at objects. But why?

Problems remembering faces suggest possible autism spectrum disorder

Looking at a human face triggers the part of the brain that is responsible for receiving and reproducing socially important information from the viewer.

This is due to the activation of certain cells in the amygdala of the brain. This conclusion was reached by scientists from Cedars-Sinai. They found that the amygdala had special “facial cells” that worked better when the gaze stopped on a person’s face than on other objects around.

It also triggered and restarted theta waves in the hippocampus, another part of the brain. The activity of these electrical brain waves plays a key role in processing information and forming memories.

“Studies in primates have shown that theta waves are restarted or reset every time there is eye movement. We were able to show that the same thing happens with humans: especially when observing the faces of our species, ”said Juri Minja, Ph.D. and Cedars-Sinai neurosurgery.

How to improve memory

The amygdala is the part of the brain that is most responsible for processing social information. The published work in Science Advances helps to better understand the principles of human memory and the treatment of related disorders.

Scientists conducted an experiment on 13 patients. They were implanted with electrodes to record the activity of individual neurons. Using video cameras, the researchers tracked the position of the subjects’ eyes and the direction of their gaze.

Face of another person activates socially important information in the brain 2

At first, the participants were shown groups of images with faces of humans and primates, later they were shown other objects: flowers, cars, geometric shapes, etc. Then the patients were asked what they managed to remember.

The experiment led the researchers to the conclusion that the human brain, thanks to the work of “facial cells” and theta waves, tends to remember the faces of other people for the sake of better socialization. And those who were found to have problems remembering faces were prone to autistic disorders.

“We believe that the interaction of “facial cells” in the amygdala of the brain and theta waves in the hippocampus reflects the preparation of the human brain to receive new socially significant information that needs to be remembered,” says professor of biomedical sciences Rutishauser.


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