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Blind people can recognize faces because the fusiform face area recognizes faces light up even in people born blind when they touch a face with their hands.

Blind people can recognize faces

The fusiform face area was discovered over 20 years ago by neuroscientists Nancy Kanwisher and others. The part of the brain located at the base of the skull usually responds strongly to faces relative to other objects we see, and it is the region that recognizes faces. In a new study, Kanwisher and her team have demonstrated that the region is also active in people when were born blind, provided they touch a three-dimensional face model with their hands. The latest finding suggests that the fusiform area doesn’t need visual experience to recognize faces.

Kanwisher explained that this doesn’t mean that visual input does not play when it comes to seen objects. The study demonstrated that visual input wants necessary for one to develop the fusiform patch with the same preference for faces. Kanwisher, a Cognitive Neuroscience profession and MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research member, was the lead author of the study. The results of the study have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study addresses questions on brain specialization

The study of people born blind enabled the researchers to address longstanding questions about the brain’s rise of specialization. In this study, researchers investigated face perception, but Kanwisher says that there are still several unanswered questions applying various aspects of human cognition. She says that this is part of what philosophers and scientists have pondered for decades about where the mind and brain structure comes from.

This latest study builds on a study in 2017 from researchers in Belgium where congenitally blind people were scanned with functional MRI as they listened to various sounds with some related to faces. The study established a high response in the vicinity of the FFA to face related sounds compared to sounds like clapping.