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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2000 Sep;10(1-2):145-58.

Effects of face inversion on the structural encoding and recognition of faces. Evidence from event-related brain potentials.

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Department of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, WC1E 7HX, London, UK.


It was investigated how face inversion affects face-specific components of event-related brain potentials (ERPs) which are assumed to reflect the structural encoding and the recognition of faces. ERPs were recorded to upright and inverted photographs of familiar faces, unfamiliar faces, and houses. In Part I, participants had to detect infrequently presented targets (hands), in Part II, attention was either directed towards or away from the pictorial stimuli. When compared with upright unfamiliar faces, upright familiar faces elicited an enhanced negativity between 300 ms and 450 ms ('N400f') and an enhanced positivity between 450 and 650 ms post-stimulus ('P600f'). It is suggested that these ERP modulations are generated by processes involved in the recognition of faces. Face inversion is known to disrupt face recognition processes. Accordingly, 'N400f' and 'P600f' were generally absent in response to inverted familiar and unfamiliar faces. The face-specific N170 component at lateral posterior electrodes was not affected by face familiarity, indicating that it reflects processing stages prior to face identification. N170 was delayed and enhanced for inverted relative to upright faces. While N170 enhancements were also observed for inverted relative to upright houses, the N170 latency shift caused by stimulus inversion was face-specific. Directing attention away from the faces towards a demanding primary visual task resulted in an N170 delay for inverted as well as for upright faces, suggesting that the time course of structural encoding of faces is affected by attentional factors. These results demonstrate that ERPs can be used as electrophysiological markers of specialised brain processes underlying the structural encoding and subsequent recognition of faces.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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