Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday June 18, @06:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the never-forget-a-face dept.

Scientists have reconstructed faces nearly perfectly by analyzing the activity of neurons in macaque brains:

[Using] a combination of brain imaging and single-neuron recording in macaques, biologist Doris Tsao and her colleagues at Caltech have finally cracked the neural code for face recognition. The researchers found the firing rate of each face cell corresponds to separate facial features along an axis. Like a set of dials, the cells are fine-tuned to bits of information, which they can then channel together in different combinations to create an image of every possible face. "This was mind-blowing," Tsao says. "The values of each dial are so predictable that we can re-create the face that a monkey sees, by simply tracking the electrical activity of its face cells."

Previous studies had hinted at the specificity of these brain areas for targeting faces. In the early 2000s, as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School, Tsao and her collaborator electrophysiologist Winrich Freiwald, obtained intracranial recordings from monkeys as they viewed a slide show of various objects and human faces. Every time a picture of a face flashed on the screen, neurons in the middle face patch would crackle with electrical activity. The response to other objects, such as images of vegetables, radios or even other bodily parts, was largely absent.

Further experiments indicated neurons in these regions could also distinguish between individual faces, and even between cartoon drawings of faces. In human subjects in the hippocampus, neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga found that pictures of actress Jennifer Aniston elicited a response in a single neuron. And pictures of Halle Berry, members of The Beatles or characters from The Simpsons activated separate neurons. The prevailing theory among researchers was that each neuron in the face patches was sensitive to a few particular people, says Quiroga, who is now at the University of Leicester in the U.K. and not involved with the work. But Tsao's recent study suggests scientists may have been mistaken. "She has shown that neurons in face patches don't encode particular people at all, they just encode certain features," he says. "That completely changes our understanding of how we recognize faces."

Also at Singularity Hub and The Guardian:

Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, a neuroscientist at the University of Leicester who was not involved in the work, described it as "quite a revolution in neuroscience". "It's solving a decades-long mystery," he added.

The puzzle of how the brain identifies a familiar face dates back to the 1960s, when the US neuroscientist, Jerry Lettvin, suggested that people have hyper-specific neurons that respond to specific objects, a notion that became known as "grandmother cells", based on the idea that you have a specific neuron that would fire on seeing your grandmother.

More recently scientists found "face patches", clusters of neurons that respond almost exclusively to faces, but how recognition was achieved had remained a "black box" process. In the absence of proof otherwise, the grandmother model continued to appeal because it tallied with the subjective "ping" of recognition we experience on seeing a familiar face.

"This paper completely kills that," said Quian Quiroga.

The Code for Facial Identity in the Primate Brain (DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.05.011) (DX)


Original Submission

 
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough

Reply to Article

Mark All as Read

Mark All as Unread

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:11PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:11PM (#527542)

    But Tsao's recent study suggests scientists may have been mistaken. "She has shown that neurons in face patches don't encode particular people at all, they just encode certain features," he says. "That completely changes our understanding of how we recognize faces."

    Until next year when we read: ""(S)he has shown that neurons in face patches don't encode certain features at all, they just encode certain people," he says. "That completely changes our understanding of how we recognize faces."

    It doesn't seem like knowledge is accumulating here, they are just flopping from one idea to another...

    • (Score: 2) by fyngyrz on Monday June 19, @05:08PM

      by fyngyrz (6567) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 19, @05:08PM (#528021) Homepage Journal

      Until next year when we read: ""(S)he has shown that neurons in face patches don't encode certain features at all, they just encode certain people," he says. "That completely changes our understanding of how we recognize faces."

      Aside from the fact that this is a monkey-based model and it's not been established that humans use the same one (though it seems probable), this mechanism would not be invalidated by additional feature recognition for rare or subtle features and faces.

      For instance, moles can appear anywhere, and animals have faces these particular systems might not be specialized to recognize, but it might be that moles aren't used for recognition at all, or there might be another mechanism for positionally-based rare features like these (moles, scars, dimples, facial hair, etc.), or entirely another system might exist for recognizing, for instance, specific predators of another species.

      Clearly, for these monkeys, the feature-based identification and triggering is operating and can serve to characterize human faces, the experiment demonstrates this explicitly; the assumption being made is that's what is used for the actual recognition downstream from there. Might not be, but if not, it would be interesting to know what this is being used for as well as what system(s) is/are doing the recognition.

      Also, there's a base assumption that this drives recognition of humans in monkeys, as that's strongly suggested by the predictive algorithm; it may not. It may only act to characterize and be thrown away. Perhaps they don't recognize humans this way, or the system is unused in favor of something else. For instance, perhaps what this really does is track expressions, and its ability to characterize a face is incidental. Lots of possibilities suggest themselves, and of course, validating it in humans is down the road a bit anyway.

      But! It does mean that a mechanism that can perform facial recognition in nature has been positively identified. I find it interesting as some of the methods we have already worked out reduce faces to a relatively small set of vectors describing feature (contrast) distances from one another. Fractional-based weightings vs. interval-based weightings are almost irrelevant, they're just data encoding differences. It took us quite a while to dig down to that solution, though.

      Biology contains, IMHO, every lesson we need to achieve actual AI (conscious, reasoning machines as opposed to simplistic LDNLS. [fyngyrz.com]) We're just not as good at reading the lessons out as we need to be if we're not to have to figure out every step from first principles.

      Having said that, considering the chaotic state of our society and politics, I'm willing to speculate that it's probably better if it takes us longer to figure all this out. I can at least hope things will be better in the future.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:13PM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:13PM (#527544)

    Why do Asians always have such old-fashioned names?

    • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday June 18, @06:19PM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @06:19PM (#527547) Homepage Journal

      Because "Doris" is easier and quicker to say than, "Shwen Yu Ning-Ching Nipnong."

      The Asians who use anglicized names get to choose one they like, and if they like their Doris, then they can keep their Doris.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Sunday June 18, @06:23PM (5 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @06:23PM (#527548) Journal

      WTF do you mean by "old fashioned names"? You have suggestions for "new fashioned names"? And, what's this racist shit about "Asians"? A lot of western people share "old fashioned names", such as David, Anthony, Ruth, Rebecca. So we spell them a lot of different ways. Anthony, Antonin, Antoine - it's all the same. An ages old name from pre-biblical times, no matter how it might be altered from one language to another.

      The old fashioned names have something that silly sounding names don't have. Dignity. Antonin doesn't HAVE to be dignified all the time. If he's feeling a bit silly, or wants to be more intimate, he'll tell you that Tony is fine. Or maybe some other nickname, not even related to his name. But his real name has dignity attached to it.

      Old fashioned is good.

      --
      This broadcast is intended for mature audiences.
      • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Sunday June 18, @06:48PM (3 children)

        by LoRdTAW (3755) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @06:48PM (#527555)

        It's okay. GP is probably a closet racist hipster. And we all know hipsters hate old things except for fashion.

        • (Score: 2) by Bot on Sunday June 18, @07:38PM (2 children)

          by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @07:38PM (#527565)

          Thus spake the Hipsterphobe.

          • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Sunday June 18, @11:42PM (1 child)

            by LoRdTAW (3755) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @11:42PM (#527636)

            Your sarcasm detector needs calibration. Preferably with an NIST traceable certificate.

            • (Score: 2) by Bot on Wednesday June 21, @05:59AM

              by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 21, @05:59AM (#528907)

              >NIST
              those guys who said a fire can collapse a building into own footprint and are now scratching their head over videos of london fire and tehran collapse?

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by frojack on Sunday June 18, @09:22PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @09:22PM (#527596) Journal

        And, what's this racist shit about "Asians"?

        Asians here was in reference to western names adopted by Asians, principally in the business world, and also in academia. Its a LONG standing practice, not found among Germans, Russians, hispanic or middle eastern people. But its VERY common among those dealing with western economy. Especially among those from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

        The factory reps and salesmen and importers we dealt with at one of my prior jobs all had western first names. Not from birth, but from inception of employment.

        I asked one (Ben) why this was and he explained it was encouraged, almost mandatory to choose a anglicism first name to get into any field dealing with westerners. I asked what his real first name is, (and after the explanation of first name surname order) he told me, and it took five tries to pronounce it correctly. But he definitely preferred Ben. An so it was.

        So it wasn't a racist rant, and you were just ignorant of this trend. Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance, especially if it is your own ignorance.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:25PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:25PM (#527562)

      Hmm... Doris, Hilda, Agnes, Dolores--all very good names that nobody uses any more.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:24PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:24PM (#527549)

    Here's an excerpt from the very amazing documentary "Technocalypse". It shows a video feed extracted from a cat's brain:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLb9EIiSyG8 [youtube.com]

    This was done years ago considering the documentary is already dated. I guess this is the first time they perform it on a primates' brain.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday June 18, @06:31PM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @06:31PM (#527551) Homepage Journal

    The article states that all faces are recognized in the cerebrum, but that is not true. There are some faces [legitscoop.com] which are instead recognized in the amygdala.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:54PM (#527571)

    How To Burn Blu-ray discs in Linux

    = Source: https://lists.debian.org/debian-user/2017/06/msg00662.html [debian.org]
    = Re: Bluray Debian ISOs: Which app(s) burns bluray images?
    = Thomas Schmitt, Author - June 18, 2017

    "Hi,

    Anonymous wrote:
    > I need to use a burning application in Linux which supports blank
    > Bluray medium.

    As GUI you may use xfburn. Version 0.5.2 and later has Blu-ray support.
    Use the "Burn Image" feature, not the "New Data Composition" feature
    which would pack up the image inside an ISO 9660 filesystem.

    Brasero and K3B can do Blu-ray, too. But i don't know the oldest suitable
    version numbers or whether those are already in Debian 8.

    On the command line there is growisofs, which is somewhat orphaned,
    and cdrskin and xorriso, where i am the developer.

        growisofs -dvd-compat -Z /dev/sr0=image.iso

        cdrskin -v dev=/dev/sr0 fs=64m -eject image.iso

        xorriso -as cdrecord -v dev=/dev/sr0 fs=64m -eject image.iso

    All three can do this since nearly 10 years.

    If you are unsure whether /dev/sr0 is the right address of your burner,
    do as superuser

        xorriso -devices

    to see a list of all idle CD-capable devices and their /dev/srX addresses.
    E.g.
        0 -dev '/dev/sr0' rwrw-- : 'HL-DT-ST' 'DVDRAM GH24NSC0'
        1 -dev '/dev/sr1' rwrw-- : 'ASUS ' 'BW-16D1HT'
    The first is an LG DVD burner, the second an ASUS Blu-ray burner.

    You need rw-permission to the /dev/srX file in order to burn.
    On Debian 8 there should be ACL which grant rw to the desktop user.
        getfacl /dev/sr0
    on my system says among other lines
        user:thomas:rw-
    If not, then i advise to let the superuser grant rw-rights to a less
    powerful user who then shall do the burn run.

    One may add options in order to avoid the slow and error prone checkreading
    while writing (aka Defect Management). growisofs inavoidably applies Defect
    Management if the medium is formatted. BD-R can be used unformatted, BD-RE
    cannot.
    To avoid automatic formatting of BD-R media:

        growisofs -use-the-force-luke=spare=none -dvd-compat -Z /dev/sr0=image.iso

    cdrskin and xorriso do not format BD-R automatically. With BD-RE it is
    possible to disable Defect Management although they must format them
    before first use:

        cdrskin -v stream_recording=on dev=/dev/sr0 fs=64m -eject image.iso

        xorriso -as cdrecord -v stream_recording=on dev=/dev/sr0 fs=64m -eject image.iso

    If you want cdrskin or xorriso to use Defect Management on BD-R, do with
    the BD-R medium before the burn run:

        cdrskin -v dev=/dev/sr0 blank=format_defectmgt

        xorriso -outdev /dev/sr0 -format as_needed

    Have a nice day :)

    Thomas"

  • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Sunday June 18, @09:49PM (3 children)

    by Unixnut (5779) on Sunday June 18, @09:49PM (#527607)

    "Jennifer Aniston elicited a response in a single neuron"

    They finally found the "Horny switch"! All that brain matter abstracting away, and it actually boils down to one neuron for the important stuff :-)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @10:06PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @10:06PM (#527616)

      White-bread Jennifer doesn't do the nasty like Angelina does.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, @01:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, @01:31AM (#527676)

        2 neurons for Angelina?

    • (Score: 2) by nishi.b on Monday June 19, @07:36AM

      by nishi.b (4243) on Monday June 19, @07:36AM (#527798)

      Seriously, the most amazing thing about Quiroga's work was that he was able to record a cell that responded to the name of the actress displayed on the screen, her face, her voice, so a cell that reacted to multiple types of input (audio, video, text, image) for the same concept.
      This was in the hippocampus that's well know for memory formation. His conclusion was not that we had one cell for each concept, or that it reacted only to this concept (even though he tried to have it react to multiple types of stimuli) but that from the data he had to present to the subject, this cell (and probably others he could not record) were reacting to this concept. In the paper he also speaks about cells that react to pictures of buildings, but it was funnier to publish on the Jennifer Aniston cell !

      In this case, I won't say I am really surprised as we already know that lower-level visual areas of the brain react to lower level features (straight lines, according to their direction for example), and the "face" area of the cortex is also well-know from patients with brain lesions.
      This looks like what you get in artificial neural networks : advanced feature extraction. This still does not contradict the fact that you can have "grandmother cells" that will identify who it can be from the high-level extracted features of the face, probably in another part of the brain.

      Disclaimer : I met Quiroga once and worked in neuroscience labs doing fMRI, EEG, MEG and implanted electrophysiology recordings in humans and primates.

(1)