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Brain cell and face perception research wins Eppendorf/Science Prize

Washington, D.C. Doris Tsao has been awarded the 2006 International Prize in Neurobiology by the journal Science and Eppendorf AG for her insights into how brains perceive individual faces. Her experiments in monkeys have shown that their brains have specific regions devoted to recognizing faces.

The Eppendorf and Science Prize in Neurobiology recognizes outstanding neurobiological research by a young scientist, as described in a 1,000-word essay based on research performed within the last three years. The grand prize winner receives $25,000 from Eppendorf, and the winner's essay will be published in the 06 October 2006 issue of the journal Science.

The winner and the two finalist essays will be published at Science Online (http://www.scienceonline.org). The winner and the finalists will be recognized at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in October in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tsao's experiments in monkeys have shown that the brain has specific regions devoted to recognizing faces. She describes her investigation of these regions' so-called "face cells" in her prize-winning essay "A Dedicated Cortical System for Processing Faces in Macaque Monkeys." Tsao is a researcher at her own lab at the University of Bremen, Germany.

She identified three regions of the temporal lobe in the macaque brain where neurons respond more strongly to faces than any other objects. She then designed experiments using recordings from individual neurons to discover what it is about a face that these cells like. Surprisingly, most of the neurons responded to human, monkey and even highly simplified cartoon faces. She discovered that each face-recognizing neuron is "tuned" to respond to a set of facial characteristics, including overall facial shape and iris size. "Each cell acts as a set of face-specific rulers, measuring faces along multiple distinct dimensions," Tsao writes. "B
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Contact: Natasha Pinol
npinol@aaas.org
202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
5-Oct-2006


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