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Neuroimage. 2003 Jul;19(3):877-83.

The functionally defined right occipital and fusiform "face areas" discriminate novel from visually familiar faces.

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Unité de Neurosciences Cognitives, UCL, Belgium.


Neuroimaging (PET and fMRI) studies have identified a set of brain areas responding more to faces than to other object categories in the visual extrastriate cortex of humans. This network includes the middle lateral fusiform gyrus (the fusiform face area, or FFA) as well as the inferior occipital gyrus (occipital face area, OFA). The exact functions of these areas in face processing remain unclear although it has been argued that their primary function is to distinguish faces from nonface object categories-"face detection"-or also to discriminate among faces, irrespective of their visual familiarity to the observer. Here, we combined the data from two previous positron emission tomography (PET) studies to show that the functionally defined face areas are involved in the automatic discrimination between unfamiliar faces and familiar faces. Consistent with previous studies, a face localizer contrast (faces-objects) revealed bilateral activation in the middle lateral fusiform gyrus (FFA, BA37) and in the right inferior occipital cortex (OFA, BA19). Within all the regions of the right hemisphere, larger levels of activation were found for unfamiliar as compared to familiar faces. These results suggest that the very same areas involved in categorizing faces at the basic or individual level, play a role in differentiating familiar faces from new faces, showing an overlap between visual and presemantic mnesic representations of faces in the right hemisphere.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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