Study uses brain scans to discover how children 'read' faces

Nov 20, 2009
Study uses brain scans to discover how children 'read' faces
Researcher Banu Ahtam guides 9 year old Oscar Nathan through the study.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Oxford University scientists are using brain-scanning technology to understand how we learn to recognise and 'read' faces as children.

The research will also investigate whether there are any differences in the way people with autism spectrum disorders respond to seeing faces.

‘Faces are really very similar in their basic features, but we are very good at recognising different faces instantly. The brain has to be very specialised to be able to do this quickly and accurately,’ says Dr Jennifer Swettenham, who is leading the study.

The ability to recognise faces is very important for communication and socialising. We need to be able to recognise people’s , and also understand their emotions, respond to where they are looking, and many other signs and indications.

‘If there’s a problem with the way the brain processes faces then this can have profound impact on people’s ability to understand social situations,’ says Dr Swettenham. ‘There is a lot of evidence to suggest that people with have difficulty with processing faces.’

Psychologists in the Oxford Autism Research Group are using a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to map in children of different ages when they are shown photos of different things. The researchers aim to discover when our brains become specialised to ‘see’ faces. They will also compare children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to see if the development of these brain responses is affected by ASD.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a non-invasive technique that uses sensors to record magnetic activity produced by active , or neurons, in the brain. Children sit on a chair with their head surrounded by the sensors, but they are not in an enclosed space like MRI scans and MEG does not make a noise, unlike MRI.

‘We hope this research will help us understand more about autism spectrum disorder and about ,’ says Dr Swettenham.

The researchers aim to involve 96 children aged between 5 and 16, with and without autism spectrum disorder, in the study.

Provided by Oxford University (news : web)

Explore further: When it comes to depressed men in the military, does size matter?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Autism explained by weak brain links

Apr 10, 2006

Poor communication between brain areas in people with autism may give clues to difficulties they have in relating with other people, a study has found.

Brain's magnetic fields reveal language delays in autism

Dec 01, 2008

Faint magnetic signals from brain activity in children with autism show that those children process sound and language differently from non-autistic children. Identifying and classifying these brain response ...

Recommended for you

Updating memory for fact and fiction

13 hours ago

Sunlight can make people sneeze. Sounds ludicrous? But it's true - it's called a photic sneeze reflex, and can occur in about one out of four people. Did you believe that fingerprints are unique to each individual? That, ...

Wide-faced men negotiate nearly $2,200 larger signing bonus

14 hours ago

Having a wider face helps men when they negotiate for themselves but hurts them when they are negotiating in a situation that requires compromise. Additionally, men who are more attractive are better collaborators compared ...

Can you be addicted to the internet?

14 hours ago

A McMaster researcher is trying to understand how much time people spend online – and whether their habits pose a danger to their physical or mental health.

Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk

22 hours ago

Controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, writes Katherine Wisner, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine® perinatal psychiatrist, in a July 23 editorial in Anesthesia & An ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Super_Ego
not rated yet Nov 21, 2009
Have they investigated this in light of mirror neurons?