A person’s ability to recognize faces is linked with the brain’s dopamine neurotransmitter system, according to a study recently published by researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas), in conjunction with colleagues in Sweden.
“There is an intimate relationship between
face recognition and the reward system,” UT Dallas Associate Professor of
Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology Dr. Bart Rypma said. “For
example, you can imagine that the more sensitive someone is to social rewards,
the better they feel during social interactions with familiar faces. People who
are better at recognizing faces are likely more socially outgoing than those
who have greater trouble differentiating one face from another.”
Rypma and fellow UT Dallas researcher Dr.
Nicholas Hubbard coauthored a paper on their findings, which was published in
The Journal of Neuroscience. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to study the brain
activity of individuals, with more activity per unit of dopamine showing better
“The findings suggest that the strength of
the neural response to the amount of dopamine transmitted could be key to
understanding why we remember some faces and forget others,” Hubbard said.
“Establishing this empirical link between fusiform activity and dopamine
binding, and linking these to a cognitive process that is highly relevant for
survival in a social world, was a most exciting find.”
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