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Nat Neurosci. 2006 Sep;9(9):1177-85. Epub 2006 Aug 6.

High-resolution imaging reveals highly selective nonface clusters in the fusiform face area.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305, USA.

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  • Nat Neurosci. 2007 Jan;10(1):133.


A region in ventral human cortex (fusiform face area, FFA) thought to be important for face perception responds strongly to faces and less strongly to nonface objects. This pattern of response may reflect a uniform face-selective neural population or activity averaged across populations with heterogeneous selectivity. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we found that the FFA has a reliable heterogeneous structure: localized subregions within the FFA highly selective to faces are spatially interdigitated with localized subregions highly selective to different object categories. We found a preponderance of face-selective responses in the FFA, but no difference in selectivity to faces compared to nonfaces. Thus, standard fMRI of the FFA reflects averaging of heterogeneous highly selective neural populations of differing sizes, rather than higher selectivity to faces. These results suggest that visual processing in this region is not exclusive to faces. Overall, our approach provides a framework for understanding the fine-scale structure of neural representations in the human brain.

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