The distributed human neural system for face perception

Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (6):223-233 (2000)

Abstract

Face perception, perhaps the most highly developed visual skill in humans, is mediated by a distributed neural system in humans that is comprised of multiple, bilateral regions. We propose a model for the organization of this system that emphasizes a distinction between the representation of invariant and changeable aspects of faces. The representation of invariant aspects of faces underlies the recognition of individuals, whereas the representation of changeable aspects of faces, such as eye gaze, expression, and lip movement, underlies the perception of information that facilitates social communication. The model is also hierarchical insofar as it is divided into a core system and an extended system. The core system is comprised of occipitotemporal regions in extrastriate visual cortex that mediate the visual analysis of faces. In the core system, the representation of invariant aspects is mediated more by the face-responsive region in the fusiform gyrus, whereas the representation of changeable aspects is mediated more by the face-responsive region in the superior temporal sulcus. The extended system is comprised of regions from neural systems for other cognitive functions that can be recruited to act in concert with the regions in the core system to extract meaning from faces

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