Scientific article

Portraits or people? Distinct representations of face identity in the human visual cortex

Published inJournal of cognitive neuroscience, vol. 17, no. 7, p. 1043-1057
Publication date2005

Humans can identify individual faces under different viewpoints, even after a single encounter. We determined brain regions responsible for processing face identity across view changes after variable delays with several intervening stimuli, using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging during a long-term repetition priming paradigm. Unfamiliar faces were presented sequentially either in a frontal or three-quarter view. Each face identity was repeated once after an unpredictable lag, with either the same or another viewpoint. Behavioral data showed significant priming in response time, irrespective of view changes. Brain imaging results revealed a reduced response in the lateral occipital and fusiform cortex with face repetition. Bilateral face-selective fusiform areas showed view-sensitive repetition effects, generalizing only from three-quarter to front-views. More medial regions in the left (but not in the right) fusiform showed repetition effects across all types of viewpoint changes. These results reveal that distinct regions within the fusiform cortex hold view-sensitive or view-invariant traces of novel faces, and that face identity is represented in a view-sensitive manner in the functionally defined face-selective areas of both hemispheres. In addition, our finding of a better generalization after exposure to a 3/4-view than to a front-view demonstrates for the first time a neural substrate in the fusiform cortex for the common recognition advantage of three-quarter faces. This pattern provides new insights into the nature of face representation in the human visual system.

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Mapping
  • Evoked Potentials/ physiology
  • Face
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality/physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted/methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Male
  • Oxygen/blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual/ physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex/blood supply/ physiology
Citation (ISO format)
POURTOIS, Gilles et al. Portraits or people? Distinct representations of face identity in the human visual cortex. In: Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 2005, vol. 17, n° 7, p. 1043–1057. doi: 10.1162/0898929054475181
Updates (1)
ISSN of the journal0898-929X

Technical informations

Creation08/06/2010 1:47:25 PM
First validation08/06/2010 1:47:25 PM
Update time03/14/2023 3:59:12 PM
Status update03/14/2023 3:59:11 PM
Last indexation10/18/2023 11:03:52 AM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack