Scientific article

Dissociable roles of the human somatosensory and superior temporal cortices for processing social face signals

Published inEuropean journal of neuroscience, vol. 20, no. 12, p. 3507-3515
Publication date2004

Faces are multi-dimensional stimuli bearing important social signals, such as gaze direction and emotion expression. To test whether perception of these two facial attributes recruits distinct cortical areas within the right hemisphere, we used single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in healthy volunteers while they performed two different tasks on the same face stimuli. In each task, two successive faces were presented with varying eye-gaze directions and emotional expressions, separated by a short interval of random duration. TMS was applied over either the right somatosensory cortex or the right superior lateral temporal cortex, 100 or 200 ms after presentation of the second face stimulus. Participants performed a speeded matching task on the second face during one of two possible conditions, requiring judgements about either gaze direction or emotion expression (same/different as the first face). Our results reveal a significant task-stimulation site interaction, indicating a selective TMS-related interference following stimulations of somatosensory cortex during the emotional expression task. Conversely, TMS of the superior lateral temporal cortex selectively interfered with the gaze direction task. We also found that the interference effect was specific to the stimulus content in each condition, affecting judgements of gaze shifts (not static eye positions) with TMS over the right superior temporal cortex, and judgements of fearful expressions (not happy expressions) with TMS over the right somatosensory cortex. These results provide for the first time a double dissociation in normal subjects during social face recognition, due to transient disruption of non-overlapping brain regions. The present study supports a critical role of the somatosensory and superior lateral temporal regions in the perception of fear expression and gaze shift in seen faces, respectively.

  • Adult
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Emotions/ physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation/methods
  • Psychomotor Performance/physiology
  • Reaction Time/ physiology
  • Recognition (Psychology)/physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Somatosensory Cortex/ physiology
  • Temporal Lobe/ physiology
Research group
Citation (ISO format)
POURTOIS, Gilles et al. Dissociable roles of the human somatosensory and superior temporal cortices for processing social face signals. In: European journal of neuroscience, 2004, vol. 20, n° 12, p. 3507–3515. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2004.03794.x
Updates (1)
ISSN of the journal0953-816X

Technical informations

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