The roles of "face" and "non-face" areas during individual face perception: Evidence by fMRI adaptation in a brain-damaged prosopagnosic patient

L. Dricot*, B. Sorger, C. Schiltz, R.W. Goebel, B. Rossion

*Corresponding author for this work

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Two regions in the human occipito-temporal cortex respond preferentially to faces: 'the fusiform face area' ('FFA') and the 'occipital face area' ('OFA'). Whether these areas have a dominant or exclusive role in face perception, or if sub-maximal responses in other visual areas such as the lateral occipital complex (LOC) are also involved, is currently debated. To shed light on this issue, we tested normal participants and PS, a well-known brain-damaged patient presenting a face-selective perception deficit (prosopagnosia) [Rossion, B., Caldara, R., Seghier, M., Schuller, A. M., Lazeyras, F., Mayer, E. (2003). A network of occipito-temporal face-sensitive areas besides the right middle fusiform gyros is necessary for normal face processing. Brain 126 2381-2395.], with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Of particular interest, the right hemisphere lesion of the patient PS encompasses the 'OFA' but preserves the 'FFA' and LOC [Sorger, B., Goebel, R., Schiltz, C., Rossion, B. (2007). Understanding the functional neuroanatomy of acquired prosopagnosia. NeuroImage 35, 836-852.]. Using fMRI-adaptation, we found a dissociation between the coding of individual exemplars in the structurally intact 'FFA', which was impaired for faces but preserved for objects in the patient PS's brain. Most importantly, a larger response to different faces than repeated faces was found in the ventral part of the LOC both for normals and the patient, next to the right hemisphere lesion. Thus, following prosopagnosia, areas that do not respond preferentially to faces such as the ventral part of the LOC (vLOC) may still be recruited for compensatory or residual individual face perception. Overall, these observations indicate that several highlevel visual areas in the human brain contribute to individual face perception. However, a subset of these areas in the right hemisphere, those responding preferentially to faces ('FFA' and 'OFA'), appear to be critical for this function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-332
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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