Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Points of light: gender and gait

Sometimes I like to comment on good writing in public relations for science, and this press release from Salk Institute captures my interest. Plus, the topic is intriguing and will make you think about your impressions of the gait of just about everyone you know!

It doesn't take John Wayne's deliberate, pigeon-toed swagger or Marilyn Monroe's famously wiggly sway to judge a person's gender based on the way they move. People are astonishingly accurate when asked to judge the gender of walking human figures, even when they are represented by 15 small dots of light attached to major joints of the body. And not only that, when human observers watched the walking motion of a male so-called "point light walker," they were more sensitive to the female attributes when watching the next figure in the sequence. This suggests that the human brain relies on specialized neurons that tell gender based on gait, report researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the May 21 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience.

Read more on Eurekalert.