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Cortex. 2013 Oct;49(9):2583-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.05.002. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Cerebral lateralization of face-sensitive areas in left-handers: only the FFA does not get it right.

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Institute of Research in Psychology, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Face perception is highly lateralized to the right hemisphere (RH) in humans, as supported originally by observations of face recognition impairment (prosopagnosia) following brain damage. Divided visual field presentations, neuroimaging and event-related potential studies have supported this view. While the latter studies are typically performed in right-handers, the few reported cases of prosopagnosia with unilateral left damage were left-handers, suggesting that handedness may shift or qualify the lateralization of face perception. We tested this hypothesis by recording the whole set of face-sensitive areas in 11 left-handers, using a face-localizer paradigm in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (faces, cars, and their phase-scrambled versions). All face-sensitive areas identified (superior temporal sulcus, inferior occipital cortex, anterior infero-temporal cortex, amygdala) were strongly right-lateralized in left-handers, this right lateralization bias being as large as in a population of right-handers (40) tested with the same paradigm (Rossion et al., 2012). The notable exception was the so-called 'Fusiform face area' (FFA), an area that was slightly left lateralized in the population of left-handers. Since the left FFA is localized closely to an area sensitive to word form in the human brain ('Visual Word Form Area' - VWFA), the enhanced left lateralization of the FFA in left-handers may be due to a decreased competition with the representation of words. The implications for the neural basis of face perception, aetiology of brain lateralization in general, and prosopagnosia are also discussed.


Brain asymmetry; FFA; Face localizer; Left-handedness; fMRI

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