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PubMed | University of Leuven Leuven la Neuve
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in human neuroscience | Year: 2011

How a visual stimulus is initially categorized as a face in a network of human brain areas remains largely unclear. Hierarchical neuro-computational models of face perception assume that the visual stimulus is first decomposed in local parts in lower order visual areas. These parts would then be combined into a global representation in higher order face-sensitive areas of the occipito-temporal cortex. Here we tested this view in fMRI with visual stimuli that are categorized as faces based on their global configuration rather than their local parts (two-tones Mooney figures and Arcimboldos facelike paintings). Compared to the same inverted visual stimuli that are not categorized as faces, these stimuli activated the right middle fusiform gyrus (Fusiform face area) and superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), with no significant activation in the posteriorly located inferior occipital gyrus (i.e., no occipital face area). This observation is strengthened by behavioral and neural evidence for normal face categorization of these stimuli in a brain-damaged prosopagnosic patient whose intact right middle fusiform gyrus and superior temporal sulcus are devoid of any potential face-sensitive inputs from the lesioned right inferior occipital cortex. Together, these observations indicate that face-preferential activation may emerge in higher order visual areas of the right hemisphere without any face-preferential inputs from lower order visual areas, supporting a non-hierarchical view of face perception in the visual cortex.

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