On the Neural Circuits for Face Recognition: a Vision Science Perspective on the Social Brain


Friday, 24 June, 2016 - 12:00 to Saturday, 25 June, 2016 - 14:00

Speaker: Dr. Winrich Freiwald, Laboratory of Neural Systems, The Rockefeller University

Abstract: Humans, like all primates, take great interest in faces. This is because faces, by structure and internal dynamics, display a plethora of social information for a visual system that can extract it. The primate brain does this through specialized hardware. The functional organization of these specializations, a network of tightly interconnected areas packed with face cells, each tuned to a different dimension of facial information, provides us with a unique model system to understand the computational principles and neural mechanisms of visual object recognition. Yet faces are special: they are not only a particularly well-defined object category, but they provide powerful inroads into the social brain as they evoke emotions, activate memories, draw and direct attention, and elicit communicative reactions. Faces trigger these processes in an automatic fashion, suggesting that just as the perceptual analysis of faces is supported by specialized hardware, these diverse cognitive functions may be as well. In his talk, Dr. Freiwald will describe recent experimental and theoretical advances towards understanding how the face-processing system encodes, transforms, and packages facial information, and how the face-processing network is embedded into the social brain in ways to suggest specific pathways for social information processing and a deep evolutionary heritage of high-level social cognition in humans.

Location: Room 139, 1st floor