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Posts Tagged ‘fusiform gyrus’

I invite everybody who’s curious about how in the world the art of caricature can be taught to try to imagine the sound track as I scribble out these drawings. (The brown paper is 3 ft high and I work in markers.)   Each student has the identical photocopied face to work from.  It’s fun.  But we also get a work out. When you decipher the terms interspersed in the scribbling—philtrum, fusiform gyrus, prosopagnosia, epicanthus, gestalt—you’ll realize that there’s substance in this course.  Actually the substance is where the fun is.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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http://facefame.wordpress.com

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PROSOPAGNOSIA

“Virtually all patients with prosopagnosia…have lesions in the right visual-association cortex, in particular on the underside of the occipitotemporal cortex.  There is nearly always damage in a structure called the fusiform gyrus…” The face is a universe onto itself, it seems.  No, not “seems,”  but IS.  That’s what the quote from Olver Sachs is about.  (prosop =  face, agnosia =not knowing)   If the cluster of gray matter called your fusiform gyrus is malformed or damaged, you will not be able to recognize faces.  Not your mother’s,  not you child’s, not your own.  Nothing wrong with your eyes, you’ll be able to see the components of the face, the eye, the nose, the mouth, but you won’t be able to perceive them as a unit, as a face.  That’s like being able to see individual letters, but not being able to read the word.  According to Dr. Sachs, six to eight million Americans are afflicted with this handicap, himself included.  That’s one in fifty.

I walked down Michigan Ave yesterday afternoon and got a little depressed as I tried to imagine what life must be like for those—who were statistically in this stream of people coming towards me—who didn’t see faces, only disembodied noses, eyes, mouths, chins.  Can’t imagine it.  I’m a face person.  I’ll stand in line at a check out counter and have a ball looking at the faces around me. The clerk goofs and has to call for the manager and I still think her face is fascinating.  There’s a special thrill that comes from a brief glance at a face in a city crowd and then being able to trace it back to some ballroom or some company picnic.  I draw hundreds of people every year, very quickly, very intensely.  (See links below)  The likeness is there within the first few seconds.  This is possible only because I read the face at a glance, not one feature at a time, but as this special Gestalt called a “face.”  People who stand around and watch me draw sometimes talk about talent and how you have to be born with it.  I used to be irritated by that word, because I put in so many years of practice to get to the point where I could draw fast, but now I’m beginning to suspect that  “talent”  may be the same as “a super-wired fusiform gyrus.”  Whatever the initial disposition of the new-born’s  fusiform gyrus, neurologists like Dr. Sachs are sure that it can be developed.  As a drawing teacher I believe that.  By drawing the face, however badly at first and however fragmented, you stimulate your fusiform gyrus; you make it grow more neurons, you heat it up with more blood, you pump it up with more oxygen.  A neurologist I’m clearly not, but I can attest to the effects of practice.

I’ve actually used these weird words in my drawing class when we’re working on faces.  Studies conducted by neurologists at the University of Thübelein-Kotzenhaufen have shown that knowing the words will not help you draw, only practice will.

http://www.newyorker.com/go/outloud

http://www.khilden.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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