Saving Faces

A brain area that’s specialized to recognize faces has a unique structure in each of our brains – and mapping that area’s connectivity patterns can tell us how each of our brains use it, says a new study. The fusiform gyrus in the temporal lobe plays a part in our recognition of words, numbers, faces, colors, and other visual specifics – but it’s becoming increasingly clear that no two people’s fusiform gyrus structure is identical. By studying this region in a larger connectomic framework, though, researchers can now predict which parts of a certain person’s fusiform gyrus are specialized for face recognition.…

Surprising Synchrony

Our corpus callosum is a bundle of fibers that allows our brains’ left and right hemispheres to communicate – but even in people born without these connections, the hemispheres are still somehow able to synchronize their activity, reports a new study. The brains of people born with a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC) – basically, absence of a corpus callosum – show activation patterns that are essentially the same as those of people with an intact corpus callosum. It’s a Neuroscience Mystery! For decades, the corpus callosum’s purpose seemed straightforward enough: though certain areas of our left and right hemispheres…

Hypnotized Eyes

A state of hypnosis creates detectable changes in a person’s eye movement patterns, says a new study. The “glazed” look of a person who’s been hypnotized can be linked to measurable, quantifiable changes in the patterns of that person’s reflexive eye movements – changes that non-hypnotized people aren’t able to replicate. The exact nature – and even the actual existence – of the hypnotic state have been controversial topics since the term was first coined in the 1840s. Some have likened it to a form of sleep (the word itself comes from the ancient Greek hypnos, meaning “sleep”), while others have described it as…

The Roots of Consciousness

The origins of subjective consciousness probably lie in an introspective brain network common to most mammals, says a new study. When we “zone out” and let our minds wander, a functional (as opposed to structural) brain network known as the default mode network (DMN) becomes active. The DMN links our frontal lobe – an area associated with planning and abstract thought – with areas of the temporal and parietal lobes that help us associate memories with ideas and emotions. In short, this network allows us to become “lost” in thought, rather than occupied with our environment, or with a specific goal. Since goal-directed behavior –…

Consistent Networks

A new study has established that functional networks are highly consistent across the brains of many individuals. The research, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, correlated huge amounts of data on the connectivity of macaque visual cortices – particularly the layers known as V1, V3, and V4 – and confirmed that between one monkey’s brain and another, these functional networks follow extremely similar patterns. The question of how consistent primate functional networks are has been a controversial issue for years. Most brains are reasonably similar to others from the same species on a structural level – but the complexity of their synaptic connections is mind blowing: a single…

Recognition and Localization

New research has identified a wide range of brain areas that help us recognize objects we see – and it’s also revealed some surprises about how the brain distributes processing power. A recent study published in the journal Neuron focuses on a patient – known as “SM” – who suffered a lesion in the right lateral fusiform gyrus (LFG), an area known to be involved in recognition of objects and faces. This has created a disorder known as “visual agnosia,” in which the patient can see just fine, but has serious trouble identifying objects. Decades of research on similar cases have shown that this isn’t a language difficulty…

Measuring Maturity

New data is enabling neuroscientists to make accurate predictions about a young connectome’s future development. By comparing the resting-state functional networks in pre-adolescent brains with connectivity’ patterns found in adult brains, neuroscientists have developed a brain maturity growth curve that charts functional connectivity changes as the brain matures. A report published in the journal Science explains that nodes in these networks are a bit like high-schoolers, because they join, branch, and and rejoin in a series of predictable “cliques” as an individual ages. Many of these cliques involve brain areas that influence a person’s ability to sustain attention, and to quickly come up with a…