For long, scientists have hunted for a category of brain cells that could demonstrate the instinctive flash of recognition, but in vain. This refers to how we react on seeing a very similar face, like that of our grandmothers. But so far, the proposed grandmother neuron has remained elusive. Explicitly, the brain neuron is a single cell at the intersection of memory and sensory perception, with the capability to prioritize an important face, in a crowded situation too.
Meanwhile, a new research divulges a class of neurons in the temporal pole area of the brain that associates long-term memory with face perception. This, however, is not quite the false grandmother neuron of a population of cells that works together to remember grandma’s face.
The findings published in Science is the first to explain how our brains implants the faces of the ones that are dear to us in the memory.
“In fact, in common parlance, to ridicule someone’s argument it would be dismissed as another grandmother neuron,” stated an associate at the Rockefeller University.
Now, in an unclear and understudied corner of the brain, the nearest thing to a grandmother is found – cells capable of associating face perception to memory.
Importantly, it is in the 1960s, the idea of a grandmother neuron surfaced as a theoretical brain cell. This would code for a specific, complex idea, all by itself. One neuron to recognize grandmother, another to recall mother, and so on. At the core, the notion of a one-to-one ratio between objects and brain cells or concepts was an effort to handle the mystery of how the brain combines what we see with long-term memories.