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Neuroimage. 2004 Apr;21(4):1518-32.

Effects of repetition learning on upright, inverted and contrast-reversed face processing using ERPs.

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  • 1The Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto, Canada M6A 2E1.


The effects of short-term learning on memory for inverted, contrast-reversed and upright faces were investigated using event-related potentials (ERPs) in a target/nontarget discrimination task following a learning phase of the target. Subjects were equally accurate for all three face types although responding more slowly to inverted and negative faces compared to upright faces. Face type affected both early ERP components P1 and N170, and long-latency components at frontal and parietal sites, reflecting the difficulty of processing inverted faces. Different effects of face type were found for P1 and N170 latencies and amplitudes, suggesting face processing could start around 100-120 ms and is sensitive to facial configuration. Repetition effects were also found on both early and long-latency components. Reduced N170 latency and amplitude for repeated targets are likely due to perceptual priming. Repetition effects on the N250 were delayed for inverted and negative faces, suggesting delayed access to stored facial representations for these formats. Increased frontopolar positivity at 250-300 ms and parietal positivity from 300 to 500 ms reflected familiarity 'old-new' repetition effects that were of similar magnitude for all three face types, indexing the accurate recognition of all faces. Thus, while structural encoding was disrupted by inversion and contrast-reversal, the learning phase was sufficient to abolish the effects of these configural manipulations behaviourally; all three face types were equally well recognised and this was reflected as equally large parietal old-new effects.

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