APR 15, 2016 11:24 AM PDT

How We

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Few key features distinguish a face: a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mouth. But while everyone has these features, how does our brain distinguish the face of a friend versus a face of a stranger? And even more strange, how does the brain often remember a face but forget a name?

As it turns out, face recognition is a highly sophisticated neurological process that involves very specific regions of the brain. The most dedicated region to this task is known as the fusiform gyrus, which is located in the temporal lobe of the brain. This region "lights up" when people are asked to identify faces. More impressively, electrodes that disturbed this region's functions also interfered with a person's ability to recognize a face. Once the stimulation halted, the person's ability to see a face was restored. Notably, during stimulation, everything else was perceived as normal, except for faces.

Facial recognition software technologies exist that mimic how the brain processes a face. But arguably, none of these technologies can fully replicate how the power of the brain, which takes milliseconds to identify a face to inform us on the identity, age, gender, race, attractiveness, and even the intention of a person.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 22, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Scientists Obtained Clues on the Mysteriously Fast Movement of Earth's Magnetic Poles
JUL 22, 2020
Scientists Obtained Clues on the Mysteriously Fast Movement of Earth's Magnetic Poles
Earth's magnetic poles have been on a hasty move in the last two decades. Recently, the geoscientists at Leeds Unive ...
AUG 27, 2020
Health & Medicine
Africa Eradicates Wild Poliovirus
AUG 27, 2020
Africa Eradicates Wild Poliovirus
On August 25th, Africa was officially certified free of wild poliovirus, a tremendous milestone that was decades in the ...
SEP 15, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Carbon-rich Planets May Be Full of Diamonds
SEP 15, 2020
Carbon-rich Planets May Be Full of Diamonds
Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Chicago have found that carbon-rich planets outside our ...
OCT 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earth-Sized Rogue Planet Found Drifting Through Our Galaxy
OCT 07, 2020
Earth-Sized Rogue Planet Found Drifting Through Our Galaxy
A team of astronomers has found a lone planet the size of Earth drifting through the Milky Way. Known as a ‘rogue ...
OCT 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why Do Galaxies Come in Different Shapes?
OCT 22, 2020
Why Do Galaxies Come in Different Shapes?
When looking it galaxies, it takes little to realize that they come in different shapes- whether they're swirling bl ...
OCT 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
OCT 29, 2020
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
Try imagining a fictional conversation between Issac Newton and Albert Einstein: "The apple falls toward the ground ...
Loading Comments...