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Brain. 2003 Nov;126(Pt 11):2381-95. Epub 2003 Jul 22.

A network of occipito-temporal face-sensitive areas besides the right middle fusiform gyrus is necessary for normal face processing.

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Unité de Neurosciences Cognitives et Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Neuroimaging studies have identified at least two bilateral areas of the visual extrastriate cortex that respond more to pictures of faces than objects in normal human subjects in the middle fusiform gyrus [the 'fusiform face area' (FFA)] and, more posteriorly, in the inferior occipital cortex ['occipital face area' (OFA)], with a right hemisphere dominance. However, it is not yet clear how these regions interact which each other and whether they are all necessary for normal face perception. It has been proposed that the right hemisphere FFA acts as an isolated ('modular') processing system for faces or that this region receives its face-sensitive inputs from the OFA in a feedforward hierarchical model of face processing. To test these proposals, we report a detailed neuropsychological investigation combined with a neuroimaging study of a patient presenting a deficit restricted to face perception, consecutive to bilateral occipito-temporal lesions. Due to the asymmetry of the lesions, the left middle fusiform gyrus and the right inferior occipital cortex were damaged but the right middle fusiform gyrus was structurally intact. Using functional MRI, we disclosed a normal activation of the right FFA in response to faces in the patient despite the absence of any feedforward inputs from the right OFA, located in a damaged area of cortex. Together, these findings show that the integrity of the right OFA is necessary for normal face perception and suggest that the face-sensitive responses observed at this level in normal subjects may arise from feedback connections from the right FFA. In agreement with the current literature on the anatomical basis of prosopagnosia, it is suggested that the FFA and OFA in the right hemisphere and their re-entrant integration are necessary for normal face processing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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