Matching faces for semantic information and names: an event-related brain potentials study

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 Jul;17(2):314-26. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(03)00131-9.


In face identification, it has been controversial whether or not access to biographical information and to a person's name are mediated by qualitatively different loci. We recorded ERPs while participants saw two successive faces and performed a matching task that either required retrieval of semantic information ("same or different profession?"), or retrieval of the person's name ("same or different number of forename syllables?"). For both tasks, slow ERP activity between the first and the second face was characterized by a prominent right posterior negativity, with the asymmetry being larger for the name than the semantic matching task. ERPs to the second face showed a difference between congruent (matching) and incongruent (mismatching) trials, with more negative ERPs for incongruent trials. In the semantic matching task, these differences were significant between 450 and 550 ms, and resembled an N400, with a maximum negativity over the vertex. In the name matching task, the topography of this congruency effect was qualitatively different from that seen in semantic matching. These findings suggest that different brain substrates mediate the access to semantic and name information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Names*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Semantic Differential / statistics & numerical data*