Article

The role of the occipital face area in the cortical face perception network

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Alexandra House, London, WC1N 3AR, UK.
Experimental Brain Research (Impact Factor: 2.17). 02/2011; 209(4):481-93. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-011-2579-1
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ABSTRACT Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have identified spatially distinct face-selective regions in human cortex. These regions have been linked together to form the components of a cortical network specialized for face perception but the cognitive operations performed in each region are not well understood. In this paper, we review the evidence concerning one of these face-selective regions, the occipital face area (OFA), to better understand what cognitive operations it performs in the face perception network. Neuropsychological evidence and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies demonstrate the OFA is necessary for accurate face perception. fMRI and TMS studies investigating the functional role of the OFA suggest that it preferentially represents the parts of a face, including the eyes, nose, and mouth and that it does so at an early stage of visual perception. These studies are consistent with the hypothesis that the OFA is the first stage in a hierarchical face perception network in which the OFA represents facial components prior to subsequent processing of increasingly complex facial features in higher face-selective cortical regions.

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    • "This suggests that breaking the firstorder configuration of face parts does not sufficiently impact the similarity between the target faces and scrambled line-drawn faces to lessen the effect of crowding to levels that are comparable to those achieved with highly dissimilar flankers. One way to interpret these results (which is admittedly speculative) is that crowding may occur at a level of representation at which face parts are processed more or less in isolation from their arrangement into a global gestalt, such as within the occipital face area (Liu, Harris, & Kanwisher, 2010; Nichols, Betts, & Wilson, 2010; Pitcher et al., 2011). Obviously we cannot unequivocally conclude that our results have such a clear neural interpretation, but we raise this interpretation as an interesting possibility for further consideration, given that the architecture of face processing in the ventral visual system has been elaborated via neuroimaging studies. "
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    ABSTRACT: Crowding refers to the inability to recognize an object in peripheral vision when other objects are presented nearby (Whitney & Levi Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 160-168, 2011). A popular explanation of crowding is that features of the target and flankers are combined inappropriately when they are located within an integration field, thus impairing target recognition (Pelli, Palomares, & Majaj Journal of Vision, 4(12), 12:1136-1169, 2004). However, it remains unclear which features of the target and flankers are combined inappropriately to cause crowding (Levi Vision Research, 48, 635-654, 2008). For example, in a complex stimulus (e.g., a face), to what extent does crowding result from the integration of features at a part-based level or at the level of global processing of the configural appearance? In this study, we used a face categorization task and different types of flankers to examine how much the magnitude of visual crowding depends on the similarity of face parts or of global configurations. We created flankers with face-like features (e.g., the eyes, nose, and mouth) in typical and scrambled configurations to examine the impacts of part appearance and global configuration on the visual crowding of faces. Additionally, we used "electrical socket" flankers that mimicked first-order face configuration but had only schematic features, to examine the extent to which global face geometry impacted crowding. Our results indicated that both face parts and configurations contribute to visual crowding, suggesting that face similarity as realized under crowded conditions includes both aspects of facial appearance.
    Attention Perception & Psychophysics 10/2014; 77(2). DOI:10.3758/s13414-014-0786-0 · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    • "Subsequent fMRI research identified a region posterior to the FFA, dubbed the " occipital face area " (OFA) that is also preferentially activated by the perception of faces (Gauthier et al., 2000). These regions have since been promoted as " core nodes " in an extended face processing network (e.g., Haxby et al., 2000; Rossion et al., 2003; Calder and Young, 2005; Ishai, 2008; Pitcher et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Functional MRI (fMRI) studies have investigated the degree to which processing of whole faces, face-parts, and bodies are differentially localized within the fusiform gyrus and adjacent ventral occipitotemporal cortex. While some studies have emphasized the spatial differentiation of processing into discrete areas, others have emphasized the overlap of processing and the importance of distributed patterns of activity. Intracranial EEG (iEEG) recorded from subdural electrodes provides excellent temporal and spatial resolution of local neural activity, and thus provides an alternative method to fMRI for studying differences and commonalities in face and body processing. In this study we recorded iEEG from 12 patients while they viewed images of novel faces, isolated eyes, headless bodies, and flowers. Event-related potential analysis identified 69 occipitotemporal sites at which there was a face-, eye-, or body-selective response when contrasted to flowers. However, when comparing faces, eyes, and bodies to each other at these sites, we identified only 3 face-specific, 13 eye-specific, and 1 body-specific electrodes. Thus, at the majority of sites, faces, eyes, and bodies evoked similar responses. However, we identified ten locations at which the amplitude of the responses spatially varied across adjacent electrodes, indicating that the configuration of current sources and sinks were different for faces, eyes, and bodies. Our results also demonstrate that eye-sensitive regions are more abundant and more purely selective than face- or body-sensitive regions, particularly in lateral occipitotemporal cortex.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2014; 8:642. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00642 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    • "As in prior studies (Pitcher et al., 2011; Rhodes et al., 2009), we identified the FFA in all 11 participants but only identified the OFA in seven participants (Table 2, Figure 2a). A hemisphere × race × face type ANOVA revealed no significant interaction involving hemisphere for the FFA (Fs < 1.34, ps > .27), the OFA (Fs <0.61, ps > .55), "
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated how face-selective cortical areas process configural and componential face information and how race of faces may influence these processes. Participants saw blurred (preserving configural information), scrambled (preserving componential information), and whole faces during fMRI scan, and performed a post-scan face recognition task using blurred or scrambled faces. The fusiform face area (FFA) showed stronger activation to blurred than to scrambled faces, and equivalent responses to blurred and whole faces. The occipital face area (OFA) showed stronger activation to whole than to blurred faces, which elicited similar responses to scrambled faces. Therefore, the FFA may be more tuned to process configural than componential information, whereas the OFA similarly participates in perception of both. Differences in recognizing own- and other-race blurred faces were correlated with differences in FFA activation to those faces, suggesting that configural processing within the FFA may underlie the other-race effect in face recognition.
    Cognitive neuroscience 05/2014; 5(3-4):1-8. DOI:10.1080/17588928.2014.912207 · 2.38 Impact Factor
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