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Faces and races in the human brain

Same-race faces elicit more activity in brain regions linked to face recognition.

Tudor Toma(ttoma@mail.dntis.ro)

Humans are better at recognizing individuals of their own race than of other races, but the mechanism that controls the neuronal activity of this still controversial social interaction, remains unknown. In the August Nature Neuroscience, Alexandra Golby and colleagues from Stanford University, California show that seeing individuals of the same race activates specific brain circuits in a previously identified face recognition area.

Golby et al. investigated European–American and African–American male volunteers who underwent functional magnetic resonance imagining while looking at pictures of men of both races. They authors found that faces of the same race as the observer elicit more activity in the fusiform gyrus in the ventral occipital cortex — a brain region known to be involved in the face recognition process (Nat Neurosci 2001, 4:845-850).

The authors speculate that same-race faces are encoded more effectively than other-race faces because of some early behavioural recognition...

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