fMRI evidence for the neural representation of faces

Nat Neurosci. 2005 Oct;8(10):1386-90. doi: 10.1038/nn1538. Epub 2005 Sep 4.


fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) studies on humans have shown a cortical area, the fusiform face area, that is specialized for face processing. An important question is how faces are represented within this area. This study provides direct evidence for a representation in which individual faces are encoded by their direction (facial identity) and distance (distinctiveness) from a prototypical (mean) face. When facial geometry (head shape, hair line, internal feature size and placement) was varied, the fMRI signal increased with increasing distance from the mean face. Furthermore, adaptation of the fMRI signal showed that the same neural population responds to faces falling along single identity axes within this space.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Cortex / blood supply*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology


  • Oxygen