Celebrities on the Cerebrum

As if taking over the world wasn’t enough for Oprah…now she has to take over our brains. The results of a new study suggest the brain contains “Oprah neurons” — specific neurons that fire when we hear her name or see her face.

The research team, from the University of Leicester in England, claims they have located the part of the brain that responds to images and sounds of a particular person. The researchers studied patients with epilepsy who have electrodes implanted in their brain to help pinpoint the source of their seizures.

As part of the study, the team showed the participants pictures of famous locations around the world, such as the World Trade Center and Eiffel Tower. They also used pictures of celebrities including Oprah, Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, and even Luke Skywalker.

The results showed that when a participant saw a picture of a celebrity, the same brain neurons would fire each time. It also didn’t matter if the participant saw a picture, heard the name out loud, or read the name. They found the neurons would ultimately fire in the medial temporal lobe. This part of the brain also includes the hippocampus – the area that is associated with memory – indicating that specific neurons are used for remembering a particular person or concept.

According to Professor Quian Quiroga (study author and head of Bioengineering at the University of Leicester):

“The processing of visual and auditory information follows completely different cortical pathways in the brain, but we are showing that this information converges into single neurons in the hippocampus, at the very end of these pathways for processing sensory information. This work gives us further understandings of how information is processed in the brain, by creating a high level of abstraction which is important for perception and memory formation given that we tend to remember abstract concepts and forget irrelevant details.”

This study will be published in the August 11th issue of Current Biology; however, it is available online now.

One Response to Celebrities on the Cerebrum

  1. elias says:

    thanks for the information, very nice

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