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Brain Cogn. 2005 Oct;59(1):96-100. Epub 2005 Jul 12.

Familiarity and emotional expression influence an early stage of face processing: an electrophysiological study.

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  • 1Université de Rouen, Faculté des Sciences, Laboratoire Psychologie et Neurosciences de la Cognition (PSY.CO EA-1780), 76821 Mont-Saint-Aignan Cedex, France.


Recent data indicate that the familiarity and the emotional expression of faces occur at an early stage of information processing. The goal of the present study was to determine whether these two aspects interact at the structural encoding stage as reflected by the N170 component of event-related potentials in tasks requiring the subjects either to identify whether the faces were familiar or the nature of the emotional expression. The results indicate that the neural responses to level of familiarity and emotional expression were observable at this early processing stage but without interacting. In particular, faces of personal importance to the subjects differed from those of less personal importance. Because familiarity did not interact with emotional expression at behavioral and electrophysiologic levels, our results support the contention of parallel and independent processing of faces.

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