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Amygdala’s Lead Role in Facial Recognition Shows Social Link to Survival

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Center for BrainHealth

New research from the Center for BrainHealth reveals that the amygdala may play a larger role in the brain’s ability to recognize faces than previously thought. Findings published in Neuropsychologia revealed that the amygdala was more face-specific than the fusiform face area (FAA), the area of the brain traditionally recognized as specialized for facial recognition. “These findings lead us to believe that the amygdala may be getting a 'preview' before the brain’s primary visual cortex sends the signal to the fusiform face area,” said Dr. Leanne R. Young, executive director, Brain Performance Institute at the Center for BrainHealth, led the team study. “The amygdala is associated with survival – fight or flight – it acts as a gateway regulating what we pay attention to. We would expect the amygdala to be activated in the presence of scary or threatening faces – something that our brain might perceive as potentially impeding our survival. However, we were surprised to find how active the amygdala is in the presence of emotionally neutral faces,” explained Dr. Dan Krawczyk, Center for BrainHealth deputy director and associate professor in the UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “This highlights the importance of social cognition, which includes the ability to recognize faces.  This process is key for our survival.”CONTACT Stephanie Hoefken 972.883.3221 stephanie.hoefken@utdallas.eduABOUT CENTER FOR BRAINHEALTH Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, is a translational research institute committed to enhancing, preserving, and restoring brain health across the lifespan. Major research areas include the use of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neurobiology supporting cognition and emotion in health and disease. This leading-edge scientific exploration is translated quickly into practical innovations to improve how people think, work and live, empowering people of all ages to unlock their brain potential. Translational innovations build on Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics (SMART™), a proprietary methodology developed and tested by BrainHealth researchers and other teams over three decades.

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Daniel Krawczyk, PhD

Deputy Director of Research Debbie and Jim Francis Chair and Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

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