Tracking down bodies in the brain

10:29am, October 9, 2001

A specific patch of tissue on the right side of the brain's visual cortex takes

charge of recognizing human bodies and body parts, contends a team of researchers

led by psychologist Paul E. Downing of the University of Wales in Bangor. This

body-processing hub lies near one region already linked to face recognition and

not far from another that specializes in telling one place from another, the

scientists say.

The researchers made their find by studying 19 volunteers with a brain-scanning

device that measures surges and declines in blood flow throughout the brain. Those

changes reflect rises and falls in neural activity. When the volunteers viewed

images of human bodies and nonfacial body parts, a small piece of visual cortex

responded much more vigorously than when they viewed images of various nonhuman

and inanimate objects, Downing's group reports in the Sept. 28 Science.

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