Car experts identify cars as other people identify human faces, a new study has found.

Researchers did an extensive study on a certain region of brain that was earlier thought to be only involved in recognizing facial expression, the fusiform face area (FFA), and found that the region can also be involved in recognizing objects.

The study was conducted on a group of car experts and researchers found that the participants had similar levels of activity in the FFA when they saw human faces or cars. Researchers detected activity in the FFA region using an MRI scanner.

"We can't say that the same groups of neurons process both facial images and objects of expertise, but we have now mapped the area in enough detail to rule out the possibility of an area exclusively devoted to facial recognition," said Rankin McGugin from Vanderbilt University who conducted the research as part of her doctoral dissertation, according to a news release. 

The researchers in the present study say that the research on FFA can help unlock the mystery of the learning process and that someday people with autism can be taught facial expression recognition. Other research has shown that when people see a car or a face, they see it as whole rather than other things that are seen in pieces.

Car designers have known for long that designing a car that would make it look more human or babyish-faced like Volkswagen Beetle or the Mini Cooper would attract more buyers. 

The researchers say that becoming a visual expert is commonplace. "It helps the doctor reading X-rays, the judge looking at show dogs, the person learning to identify birds or to play chess; it even helped us when we learned brain anatomy!," said Isabel Gauthier who directed the study.

Other studies by Gauthier and team had found that people who were experts in identifying objects were also more likely to be better at recognizing faces. 

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.