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Neuroimage. 2006 Sep;32(3):1385-94. Epub 2006 Jul 25.

Faces are represented holistically in the human occipito-temporal cortex.

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Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie, Université catholique de Louvain, Avenue Hippocrate 54-49, 1200 Brussels, Belgium.


Two identical top parts of a face photograph look different if their bottom parts differ. This perceptual illusion, the "face composite effect", is taken as strong evidence that faces are processed as a whole rather than as a collection of independent features. To test the hypothesis that areas responding preferentially to faces in the human brain represent faces holistically, we recorded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during an adaptation paradigm with the composite face illusion. In both the middle fusiform gyrus (MFG) and the inferior occipital gyrus (IOG), we observed a significantly larger response to the same top face when it was aligned with different bottom parts than with the same bottom part, with a most robust effect in the right middle fusiform gyrus. This difference was not found when the top and the bottom face parts were spatially misaligned or when the faces were presented upside-down. These findings indicate that facial features are integrated into holistic face representations in areas of the human visual cortex responding preferentially to faces.

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