• Radiologic Technology News

fMRI Pinpoints Key Brain Area

Apr 26, 2016

Researchers say they’ve found a distinct region of the brain used to recognize facial expressions. Specifically, it's on the right side, behind the ear in a region called the posterior superior temporal sulcus.

In a paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging discovered that this region became activated when subjects looked at images of people making different facial expressions. Regardless of the expressions they saw, all subjects showed increased activity in the same area of the brain.

The study concluded that neural patterns in this part of the brain become specialized for distinguishing movement in specific parts of the face. One pattern can detect a furrowed brow; another is set to detect a smile, and so on.

In a news release, Aleix Martinez, a cognitive scientist and one of the authors of the study said, "This work could have a variety of applications, helping us not only understand how the brain processes facial expressions, but ultimately how this process may differ in people with autism, for example."

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