Eye Reflections in Photos Could Help Solve Crimes


Eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul — but they make even better mirrors. And what they reflect will astonish you.

Researchers studying the incredible level of detail in modern digital photographs were able to pick out the tiny reflections of faces hidden in the eyes of the subject. By zooming in on the subject’s eyes in high-resolution, passport-style photographs, they were able to pick out the faces and accurately identify them.

“The pupil of the eye is like a black mirror,” said Rob Jenkins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York. “To enhance the image, you have to zoom in and adjust the contrast. A face image that is recovered from a reflection in the subject’s eye is about 30,000 times smaller than the subject’s face.”

Working with Christie Kerr, of the School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, Jenkins recovered the images of bystanders that were as small as 27 pixels across (1 megapixel is about a million pixels). Yet when presented to panelists in a face-matching task, observers were able to match the diminutive faces 71 percent of the time. When the faces were familiar ones, people recognized identity correctly 84 percent of the time.

“Our findings thus highlight the remarkable robustness of human face recognition, as well as the untapped potential of high-resolution photography,” Jenkins said.

The pictures were taken with a high-end, 39-megapixel Hasselblad camera, snapped while the onlookers were close to the subject and the room well lit. But with smartphones that pack increasingly better digital sensors, even ordinary photos may soon capture a similar level of detail.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera, for example; AT&T sells the phone for just $199.99.

The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage taking or child sex abuse, reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators.

Images of people retrieved from cameras seized as evidence during criminal investigations may be used to piece together networks of associates or to link individuals to particular locations.

Fear Can Be Erased from the Brain, Research Shows.


Newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain. This is shown by researchers from Uppsala University in a new study now being published by the academic journal Science. The findings may represent a breakthrough in research on memory and fear.

Thomas Ågren, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Psychology under the supervision of Professors Mats Fredrikson and Tomas Furmark, has shown, that it is possible to erase newly formed emotional memories from the human brain.

When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process. In other words, it can be said that we are not remembering what originally happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened. By disrupting the reconsolidation process that follows upon remembering, we can affect the content of memory.

In the study the researchers showed subjects a neutral picture and simultaneously administered an electric shock. In this way the picture came to elicit fear in the subjects which meant a fear memory had been formed. In order to activate this fear memory, the picture was then shown without any accompanying shock. For one experimental group the reconsolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the reconsolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.

In that the experimental group was not allowed to reconsolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated. In other words, by disrupting the reconsolidation process, the memory was rendered neutral and no longer incited fear. At the same time, using a MR-scanner, the researchers were able to show that the traces of that memory also disappeared from the part of the brain that normally stores fearful memories, the nuclear group of amygdala in the temporal lobe.

‘These findings may be a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks,’ says Thomas Ågren.

Source: science daily.