Gaze-contact is often a preliminary to social interaction and so constitutes a signal for the allocation of processing resources to the gazing face. We investigated how gaze direction influences face processing in an fMRI study, where seen gaze and head direction could independently be direct or deviated. Direct relative to averted gaze elicited stronger activation for faces in ventral occipitotemporal cortices around the fusiform gyrus, regardless of head orientation. Moreover, direct gaze led to greater correlation between activity in the fusiform and the amygdala, a region associated with emotional responses and stimulus saliency. By contrast, faces with averted gaze (again, regardless of head orientation) yielded increased correlation between activity in the fusiform and the intraparietal sulcus, a region associated with shifting attention to the periphery.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.