Specific and common brain regions involved in the perception of faces and bodies and the representation of their emotional expressions

Soc Neurosci. 2009;4(2):101-20. doi: 10.1080/17470910701865367.


Many studies provide support for the role of the fusiform gyrus in face recognition and its sensitivity to emotional expressions. Recently, category-specific representation was also observed for neutral human bodies in the middle temporal/middle occipital gyrus (extrastriate body area) but it is not clear whether this area is also sensitive to emotional bodily expressions. Besides these areas, other regions that process the affective information carried by the face and the body may be common and/or specific to the face or the body. To clarify these issues we performed a systematic comparison of how the whole brain processes faces and bodies and how their affective information is represented. Participants categorized emotional facial and bodily expressions while brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Our results show that, first, the amygdala and the fusiform gyrus are sensitive to recognition of facial and bodily fear signals. Secondly, the extrastriate body area-area V5/MT is specifically involved in processing bodies without being sensitive to the emotion displayed. Thirdly, other important areas such as the superior temporal sulcus, the parietal lobe and subcortical structures represent selectively facial and bodily expressions. Finally, some face/body differences in activation are a function of the emotion expressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Face*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen