A new study by the National Institutes of Health uncovers how color plays a key role in how our brain processes faces.

Researchers found evidence that the human brain’s visual system is especially sensitive to the color of faces compared to the colors of other objects or things.

“The findings underscore the complexity of color perception,” said Dr. Bevil Conway, the study’s lead investigator. “Far from operating as a reflex, color perception involves a set of sophisticated brain operations that ultimately assign value and meaning to what we see.”

The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, used a low-pressure sodium lamp, which makes everything look like a black and white movie with a brownish-yellow filter. The participants of the study then viewed the objects under white light.

“Surprisingly, we found no clear evidence of the impact of memory,” Conway said.

The findings suggest that face color is an essential operation that is inherent in the human visual system.

“The specificity of this error signal to faces tells us that the brain has special wiring for face color,” Conway said.

The findings suggest that social communication cues are part of an evolution in our ancestors that started 23 million years ago.

It is encoded by the L and M cones, the photoreceptors that make trichromatic color vision possible.