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J Neurophysiol. 1998 Jun;79(6):3257-65.

fMRI study of face perception and memory using random stimulus sequences.

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Section on Functional Brain Imaging, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1366, USA.


A new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) method was used to investigate the functional neuroanatomy of face perception and memory. Whole-brain fMRI data were acquired while four types of stimuli were presented sequentially in an unpredictable pseudorandom order at a rate of 0.5 Hz. Stimulus types were a single repeated memorized target face, unrepeated novel faces, nonsense scrambled faces, and a blank screen. Random stimulus sequences were designed to generate a functional response to each stimulus type that was uncorrelated with responses to other stimuli. This allowed fMRI responses to each stimulus type to be examined separately using multiple regression. Signal increases were found for all stimuli in ventral posterior cortex. Responses to intact faces extended to more anterior locations of occipitotemporal cortex than did responses to scrambled faces, consistent with previous studies of face perception. Responses evoked by novel faces were in regions of ventral occipitotemporal cortex medial to regions in which significant responses were evoked by the target face. The repeated target face stimulus also evoked activity in widely distributed regions of frontal and parietal cortex. These results demonstrate that cortical hemodynamic responses to interleaved novel and repeated stimuli can be distinguished and measured using fMRI with appropriate stimulus sequences and data analysis methods. This method can now be used to examine the neural systems involved in cognitive tasks that were previously impossible to study using positron emission tomography or fMRI.

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