DEC 27, 2016 5:30 AM PST

How The Brain Learns To Recognize Faces

Some people claim, “I never forget a face” and while this might be true for some, it’s actually the brain that does this hard work.  Remembering and recognizing a face is a complex task that happens in the brain and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have come up with a model, by the numbers, of this brain process and it seems to be more accurate and complete than other models have been.

                                                 

In order to work with the mechanism of facial recognition and be able to see individual components and pull it apart to really understand it, the team at MIT used machine-learning. They built a system using the computational model they postulated and then worked with it, essentially training it recognize faces, much like the brain does, at least in their theory. What happened was that the system included a step in processing the simple images they used, and this step had came about without any manipulation from the team, it literally just evolved in the course of the learning model being used to recognize the images and faces.

It was a step that recognized and processed the degree of rotation of a face in the images in used. If the picture of a face was not straight on, but rather rotated a few degrees from center, the system picked this up and included it in the learning process. It didn’t assess the direction of rotation, but did use the observation of rotation in the learning task. Tomaso Poggio is a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and director of the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines (CBMM), a multi-institution research consortium funded by the National Science Foundation and headquartered at MIT . He explained, “This is not a proof that we understand what’s going on. Models are kind of cartoons of reality, especially in biology. So I would be surprised if things turn out to be this simple. But I think it’s strong evidence that we are on the right track.”

The model , which was arrived at using algorithms, does include a mathematical proof that Poggio called “biologically plausible” for how the brain and the nervous system work as a whole. Poggio is the senior author on a paper describing project which was published in the journal Current Biology. He describes the work as “A nice illustration of what we want to do in [CBMM], which is this integration of machine learning and computer science on one hand, neurophysiology on the other, and aspects of human behavior. That means not only what algorithms does the brain use, but what are the circuits in the brain that implement these algorithms.”

Previous research has shown that specific groups of neurons in the brain fire according to the direction of the head, whether it's facing left or right but Poggio’s team at MIT found an intermediate region where different groups of neurons fire based on the extent of the rotation of a face, be it 30 degrees, 45 degree or 90. It was this intermediate step that had not been seen before but rather “popped out” during the process of modeling and machine-learning. It’s being seen as a variation of Hebb’s Rule, which theorizes that neurons that “fire together are wired together.” As a result, the more certain neuron groups are associated, the more they contribute to the process of facial recognition and learning in the brain.  The following video shows Professor Poggio explaining more about the project, take a look.

Soures: MITCurrent Biology via Science DirectEngadget

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 29, 2021
Technology
Images of Healthy Foods With A Lot of Likes On Social Media Influence Eating Habits
SEP 29, 2021
Images of Healthy Foods With A Lot of Likes On Social Media Influence Eating Habits
When you’re scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, do you ever stop to think about how you’re be ...
OCT 20, 2021
Plants & Animals
Processed Foods Negatively Affect Memory in Aging Brains
OCT 20, 2021
Processed Foods Negatively Affect Memory in Aging Brains
Processed foods—chips, soda, frozen meals, the kinds of foods designed to have a long shelf life and be easy to pr ...
OCT 25, 2021
Health & Medicine
Recognizing Dementia as a Risk Factor for COVID-19
OCT 25, 2021
Recognizing Dementia as a Risk Factor for COVID-19
Dementia is a cluster of neurological symptoms characterized by an impaired ability to remember, make decisions, and per ...
OCT 26, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
In a First, Bach1 Protein Linked to Parkinson's, Revealing Potential Treatment
OCT 26, 2021
In a First, Bach1 Protein Linked to Parkinson's, Revealing Potential Treatment
One of the most common neurodegenerative disorders is Parkinson's disease, impacting an estimated 10 million people arou ...
NOV 11, 2021
Technology
Chatty Chatbots Learn to Cope with Figurative Language
NOV 11, 2021
Chatty Chatbots Learn to Cope with Figurative Language
Researchers investigate methods to improve dialogue system engagement with natural language
NOV 29, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Discover a New Type of Cell in the Retina
NOV 29, 2021
Researchers Discover a New Type of Cell in the Retina
Many types of cells in the eye were identified 100 years ago. But researchers found something new there.
Loading Comments...