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Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Nov 10;8:868. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00868. eCollection 2014.

Spatio-temporal dynamics and laterality effects of face inversion, feature presence and configuration, and face outline.

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Department of Radiology, University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA, USA ; Department of Psychology, San Diego State University San Diego, CA, USA.
Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, Center for Memory and Brain, Boston University Boston, MA, USA.
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Radiology Department at Harvard Medical School Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Radiology, University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA, USA ; Department of Neurosciences, University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA, USA.


Although a crucial role of the fusiform gyrus (FG) in face processing has been demonstrated with a variety of methods, converging evidence suggests that face processing involves an interactive and overlapping processing cascade in distributed brain areas. Here we examine the spatio-temporal stages and their functional tuning to face inversion, presence and configuration of inner features, and face contour in healthy subjects during passive viewing. Anatomically-constrained magnetoencephalography (aMEG) combines high-density whole-head MEG recordings and distributed source modeling with high-resolution structural MRI. Each person's reconstructed cortical surface served to constrain noise-normalized minimum norm inverse source estimates. The earliest activity was estimated to the occipital cortex at ~100 ms after stimulus onset and was sensitive to an initial coarse level visual analysis. Activity in the right-lateralized ventral temporal area (inclusive of the FG) peaked at ~160 ms and was largest to inverted faces. Images containing facial features in the veridical and rearranged configuration irrespective of the facial outline elicited intermediate level activity. The M160 stage may provide structural representations necessary for downstream distributed areas to process identity and emotional expression. However, inverted faces additionally engaged the left ventral temporal area at ~180 ms and were uniquely subserved by bilateral processing. This observation is consistent with the dual route model and spared processing of inverted faces in prosopagnosia. The subsequent deflection, peaking at ~240 ms in the anterior temporal areas bilaterally, was largest to normal, upright faces. It may reflect initial engagement of the distributed network subserving individuation and familiarity. These results support dynamic models suggesting that processing of unfamiliar faces in the absence of a cognitive task is subserved by a distributed and interactive neural circuit.


dual route model; face inversion; faces; fusiform gyrus; laterality; magnetoencephalography; temporal cortex

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