Neuropsychological mechanisms of visual face and body perception

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009 Jul;33(7):1133-44. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.05.008. Epub 2009 Jun 3.


Human faces and bodies provide important social cues, which contribute to the identification of other people, their age and gender as well as their intentions and affective states. The underlying neuropsychological mechanisms of face processing have been studied extensively and recent interest has also focused on the study of body shape perception. The present article aims to summarize and to critically evaluate the evidence for and against the specificity of body shape processing. Cognitive mechanisms, neurocognitive models and neuronal correlates of body processing will be compared with corresponding evidence related to human face processing. Clinical phenomena related to body shape perception will also be addressed. The available data base documents a range of similarities and differences between face and body perception with respect to the cognitive mechanisms, neuronal correlates and neuropsychological impairment patterns. The lack of a selective deficit in body perception is the most important difference between both categories. The sparse data base for human body shape perception does not yet allow any firm conclusions with respect to its underlying neuropsychological mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Face*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*