July 16, 2021 — That flash of familiarity we really feel after we see somebody we all know has lengthy fascinated and stumped scientists, who’ve been unable to pinpoint what is going on within the mind. However for the primary time, researchers are now reporting a brand new class of cells they are saying is accountable.

The invention goes towards the prevailing understanding in neuroscience that numerous areas of the brain should talk with one another to course of info. As a substitute, this examine reveals that one area of the mind seems to be working for the only goal of figuring out individuals we all know.

It was thought {that a} single mind cell — referred to as the grandmother neuron, due to its skill to determine acquainted faces, like an individual’s grandmother’s — can be found, however that has but to occur.

The issue is so entrenched in neuroscience that senior creator Winrich Freiwald, PhD, a professor of neurosciences and habits on the Rockefeller College in New York Metropolis, says that when one scientist desires to ridicule one other’s argument, they dismiss it as “simply one other grandmother neuron,” or unproven principle.

Now, in an obscure and understudied space of the mind, Freiwald says they’ve discovered the closest factor to a grandmother neuron in cells able to linking face notion to reminiscence.

The Grandmother of Cells

For his or her examine, Freiwald and his colleagues recorded electrical indicators from neurons within the brains of two rhesus monkeys as they had been proven pictures of faces; a few of the individuals they knew, and a few of the individuals they didn’t.

The staff confirmed that neurons within the decrease entrance of the mind, the temporal pole, play a task within the identification of acquainted faces and the power to inform the distinction between identified and new faces.

In actual fact, neuronal responses had been thrice stronger for faces of individuals the monkeys had been personally accustomed to than for faces of these they didn’t know, even when they’d seen these faces a number of occasions on screens.

This might level to the significance of realizing somebody in individual, the researchers clarify. Given the tendency these days to work together nearly, we have to be conscious that faces we’ve seen on a display screen won’t evoke the identical neuronal exercise as faces we meet in individual.

With this info, scientists can begin to examine how these mind cells encode acquainted faces. The researchers say they will now ask how this area is linked to the opposite elements of the mind and what occurs when a brand new face seems.

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Science: “A quick hyperlink between face notion and reminiscence within the temporal pole.”

Winrich Freiwald, PhD, professor of neurosciences and habits, the Rockefeller College, New York Metropolis.

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