[Neural mechanisms of facial recognition]

Brain Nerve. 2007 Jan;59(1):45-51.
[Article in Japanese]


We review recent researches in neural mechanisms of facial recognition in the light of three aspects: facial discrimination and identification, recognition of facial expressions, and face perception in itself. First, it has been demonstrated that the fusiform gyrus has a main role of facial discrimination and identification. However, whether the FFA (fusiform face area) is really a special area for facial processing or not is controversial; some researchers insist that the FFA is related to 'becoming an expert' for some kinds of visual objects, including faces. Neural mechanisms of prosopagnosia would be deeply concerned to this issue. Second, the amygdala seems to be very concerned to recognition of facial expressions, especially fear. The amygdala, connected with the superior temporal sulcus and the orbitofrontal cortex, appears to operate the cortical function. The amygdala and the superior temporal sulcus are related to gaze recognition, which explains why a patient with bilateral amygdala damage could not recognize only a fear expression; the information from eyes is necessary for fear recognition. Finally, even a newborn infant can recognize a face as a face, which is congruent with the innate hypothesis of facial recognition. Some researchers speculate that the neural basis of such face perception is the subcortical network, comprised of the amygdala, the superior colliculus, and the pulvinar. This network would relate to covert recognition that prosopagnosic patients have.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Face / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Prosopagnosia / etiology*
  • Prosopagnosia / psychology
  • Pulvinar / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology