Differential selectivity for dynamic versus static information in face-selective cortical regions

Neuroimage. 2011 Jun 15;56(4):2356-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.03.067. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Neuroimaging studies have identified multiple face-selective regions in human cortex but the functional division of labor between these regions is not yet clear. A central hypothesis, with some empirical support, is that face-selective regions in the superior temporal sulcus (STS) are particularly responsive to dynamic information in faces, whereas the fusiform face area (FFA) computes the static or invariant properties of faces. Here we directly tested this hypothesis by measuring the magnitude of response in each region to both dynamic and static stimuli. Consistent with the hypothesis, we found that the response to movies of faces was not significantly different from the response to static images of faces from these same movies in the right FFA and right occipital face area (OFA). By contrast the face-selective region in the right posterior STS (pSTS) responded nearly three times as strongly to dynamic faces as to static faces, and a face-selective region in the right anterior STS (aSTS) responded to dynamic faces only. Both of these regions also responded more strongly to moving faces than to moving bodies, indicating that they are preferentially engaged in processing dynamic information from faces, not in more general processing of any dynamic social stimuli. The response to dynamic and static faces was not significantly different in a third face-selective region in the posterior continuation of the STS (pcSTS). The strong selectivity of face-selective regions in the pSTS and aSTS, but not the FFA, OFA or pcSTS, for dynamic face information demonstrates a clear functional dissociation between different face-selective regions, and provides further clues into their function.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motion
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*