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Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Jan 1;51(1):59-67.

Human neural systems for face recognition and social communication.

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Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, Building 10, Room 4C104, 10 Center Drive-MSC 1366, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Face perception is mediated by a distributed neural system in humans that consists of multiple, bilateral regions. The functional organization of this system embodies a distinction between the representation of invariant aspects of faces, which is the basis for recognizing individuals, and the representation of changeable aspects, such as eye gaze, expression, and lip movement, which underlies the perception of information that facilitates social communication. The system also has a hierarchical organization. A core system, consisting of occipitotemporal regions in extrastriate visual cortex, mediates the visual analysis of faces. An extended system consists of regions from neural systems for other cognitive functions that can act in concert with the core system to extract meaning from faces. Of regions in the extended system for face perception, the amygdala plays a central role in processing the social relevance of information gleaned from faces, particularly when that information may signal a potential threat.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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