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Dr. Andrew Bell

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Our research seeks to understand the neural mechanisms underlying the perception of social cues, such as facial expressions, and how these processes are ultimately used to guide social behaviour.

Faces are highly dynamic stimuli that convey information about an individual's identity and emotional state. The brain contains a network of specialized structures concentrated in the temporal cortex that appear dedicated to processing faces and other social cues. Injury that includes these regions, such as that which occurs following stroke or traumatic brain damage, can lead to significant face processing deficits, such as prosopagnosia ("face blindness"), where patients lack the ability to recognize and/or discriminate faces but have an otherwise intact visual system.  Deficits in face recognition are also common to a wide range of developmental disorders, including autism and Down's syndrome, and represent a significant barrier to the successful socialization of many patients.  Using a combination of approaches, our research seeks to understand the functional and anatomical relationships between regions in temporal and frontal cortices responsible for mediating face recognition and social behaviour.  This research is made possible through a collaboration between the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (based in Cambridge) and the University of Oxford. Through this work, we hope to gain a comprehensive description of cortical networks contribute to successful face recognition and social interactions, and how these networks might be affected following injury or in specific disease states.