Brain activation evoked by perception of gaze shifts: the influence of context

Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(2):156-70. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(02)00146-x.


Prior studies from our laboratory [Journal of Neuroscience 18 (1998) 2188; Cognitive Neuropsychology 17 (2000) 221] have demonstrated that discrete regions of the superior temporal sulcus (STS) are activated when a subject views a face in which the eyes shift their gaze. Here we investigated the degree to which activity in the STS and other brain regions is modulated by the context of the perceived gaze shift; that is, when the shift correctly or incorrectly acquires a visual target. Fifteen subjects participated in an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment in which they viewed an animated face that remained present throughout each run. On each of 21 trials within each run, a small checkerboard appeared and flickered at one of six locations within the character's visual field. On "correct" trials, the character shifted its gaze towards the checkerboard after a delay of 1 or 3s. On "incorrect" trials, the character shifted its gaze towards empty space after the same delays. On "no shift" trials, the character's eyes did not move. Significantly larger hemodynamic responses (HDR) were evoked by gaze shifts compared to no gaze shifts in primarily right hemisphere STS. The gaze-evoked HDR was significantly delayed in peak amplitude for 3s compared to 1s shifts. For 1s shifts, a strong effect of context was observed in which errors evoked a HDR with extended duration. Although this study focused upon STS, similar effects were also observed in the intraparietal sulcus and fusiform gyrus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*