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Brain Res. 2007 Jan 5;1127(1):80-9. Epub 2006 Nov 15.

What is adapted in face adaptation? The neural representations of expression in the human visual system.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC, Canada.


The neural representation of facial expression within the human visual system is not well defined. Using an adaptation paradigm, we examined aftereffects on expression perception produced by various stimuli. Adapting to a face, which was used to create morphs between two expressions, substantially biased expression perception within the morphed faces away from the adapting expression. This adaptation was not based on low-level image properties, as a different image of the same person displaying that expression produced equally robust aftereffects. Smaller but significant aftereffects were generated by images of different individuals, irrespective of gender. Non-face visual, auditory, or verbal representations of emotion did not generate significant aftereffects. These results suggest that adaptation affects at least two neural representations of expression: one specific to the individual (not the image), and one that represents expression across different facial identities. The identity-independent aftereffect suggests the existence of a 'visual semantic' for facial expression in the human visual system.

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