Electrophysiological studies of human face perception. I: Potentials generated in occipitotemporal cortex by face and non-face stimuli

Cereb Cortex. Jul-Aug 1999;9(5):415-30. doi: 10.1093/cercor/9.5.415.


This and the following two papers describe event-related potentials (ERPs) evoked by visual stimuli in 98 patients in whom electrodes were placed directly upon the cortical surface to monitor medically intractable seizures. Patients viewed pictures of faces, scrambled faces, letter-strings, number-strings, and animate and inanimate objects. This paper describes ERPs generated in striate and peristriate cortex, evoked by faces, and evoked by sinusoidal gratings, objects and letter-strings. Short-latency ERPs generated in striate and peristriate cortex were sensitive to elementary stimulus features such as luminance. Three types of face-specific ERPs were found: (i) a surface-negative potential with a peak latency of approximately 200 ms (N200) recorded from ventral occipitotemporal cortex, (ii) a lateral surface N200 recorded primarily from the middle temporal gyrus, and (iii) a late positive potential (P350) recorded from posterior ventral occipitotemporal, posterior lateral temporal and anterior ventral temporal cortex. Face-specific N200s were preceded by P150 and followed by P290 and N700 ERPs. N200 reflects initial face-specific processing, while P290, N700 and P350 reflect later face processing at or near N200 sites and in anterior ventral temporal cortex. Face-specific N200 amplitude was not significantly different in males and females, in the normal and abnormal hemisphere, or in the right and left hemisphere. However, cortical patches generating ventral face-specific N200s were larger in the right hemisphere. Other cortical patches in the same region of extrastriate cortex generated grating-sensitive N180s and object-specific or letter-string-specific N200s, suggesting that the human ventral object recognition system is segregated into functionally discrete regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reading
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*