Looking across a crowded theater, most of us can instantly recognize our friends, even if it’s dark or their faces are partly obscured. How exactly does the brain accomplish this feat? New research has uncovered a simple code that neurons use to process facial information.
The findings, published in Cell in June, suggest that the face-processing neurons don’t respond to a specific person. Instead, they encode specific features of faces, such as the distance between the eyes. “This new study represents the culmination of almost two decades of research trying to crack the code of facial identity,” Doris Tsao, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), said in a news release. “It’s very exciting because our results show that this code is actually very simple.”