Men who are fanatical about cars identify vehicles using the same brain circuitry used to recognise faces, new research shows. Forty men, half of whom were proven automobile aficionados, were fitted with sensors to monitor electrophysiological activity in part of the brain linked with facial identification. They were then asked to identify faces and cars, individually and then together.

The car lovers had greater difficulty in recognising vehicles from isolated details, suggesting they recognise them “holistically”. This method is normally associated with facial identification.

The researchers, Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Tim Curran of the University of Colorado at Boulder, say their findings contradict the theory that at one part of the brain is used solely for facial recognition.

Auromobile aficionados also found it more difficult to identify an image consisting of parts of both faces and cars. The researchers say this “traffic jam” in the brain indicates that the same neural process is used to process both types of image.

Extreme interest

The monitoring of subject’s brain activity showed that attempts to identify cars and faces simultaneously occurred at the same time. Both signals were recorded less than a fifth of a second after the image was seen, leading the researchers to conclude that they represent an early stage of image processing.

“This indicates that…

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