Face processing slows with age

Sep 08, 2009

Identifying a face can be difficult when that face is shown for only a fraction of a second. However, young adults have a marked advantage over elderly people in these conditions. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience found indications that elderly people have reduced perception speed.

Guillaume Rousselet, from the University of Glasgow, UK, worked with a team of researchers to study electric activity from the brains of young and old people as they watched pictures of with cloud-like noise. He said, "Very few studies have attempted to measure the effect of ageing on the time-course of visual processing in response to complex stimuli like faces. We found that, as well as a general reduction in speed in the elderly, one particular component of the response to a face, the N170, is less sensitive to faces in the elderly".

The N170 occurs 170 milliseconds after a stimulus is presented. In the young, it was more closely associated with the appearance of a face, while in older subjects it occurred also in response to noise, perhaps implying reduced ability to differentiate faces from noise. Speaking about the results, Rousselet said, "Our data support the common belief that as we get older we get slower. Beyond this general conclusion, our research provides new tools to quantify by how much the brain slows down in the particular context of . Now, we need to identify the reasons for the speed reduction and for the heterogeneity of the effects - indeed, why the brains of some older subjects seem to tick as fast as the brains of some young subjects is, at this point, a complete mystery".

More information: Age-related delay in information accrual for faces: Evidence from a parametric, single-trial EEG approach; Guillaume A Rousselet, Jesse S Husk, Cyril R Pernet, Carl M Gaspar, Patrick J Bennett and Allison B Sekuler; BMC Neuroscience (in press); www.biomedcentral.com/bmcneurosci/

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

Explore further: Memory in silent neurons

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Neurological differences support dyslexia subtypes

Jun 25, 2009

Parts of the right hemisphere of the brains of people with dyslexia have been shown to differ from those of normal readers. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) ...

Face facts: People don't stand out in crowds

Jan 18, 2008

Why is it difficult to pick out even a familiar face in a crowd? We all experience this, but the phenomenon has been poorly understood until now. The results of a recent study may have implications for individuals with face-recognition ...

Chimps, like humans, focus on faces

Jul 23, 2009

A chimp's attention is captured by faces more effectively than by bananas. A series of experiments described in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology suggests that the apes are wired to res ...

Recommended for you

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations

18 hours ago

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations, previously believed that only the brain could perform. This is according to a study from Umeå University in Sweden published in the journal Nature Ne ...

Memory in silent neurons

Aug 31, 2014

When we learn, we associate a sensory experience either with other stimuli or with a certain type of behavior. The neurons in the cerebral cortex that transmit the information modify the synaptic connections ...

Why your favourite song takes you down memory lane

Aug 28, 2014

Music triggers different functions of the brain, which helps explain why listening to a song you like might be enjoyable but a favourite song may plunge you into nostalgia, scientists said on Thursday.

User comments : 0