Anterior temporal face patches: a meta-analysis and empirical study

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Feb 1:7:17. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00017. eCollection 2013.


Evidence suggests the anterior temporal lobe (ATL) plays an important role in person identification and memory. In humans, neuroimaging studies of person memory report consistent activations in the ATL to famous and personally familiar faces and studies of patients report resection or damage of the ATL causes an associative prosopagnosia in which face perception is intact but face memory is compromised. In addition, high-resolution fMRI studies of non-human primates and electrophysiological studies of humans also suggest regions of the ventral ATL are sensitive to novel faces. The current study extends previous findings by investigating whether similar subregions in the dorsal, ventral, lateral, or polar aspects of the ATL are sensitive to personally familiar, famous, and novel faces. We present the results of two studies of person memory: a meta-analysis of existing fMRI studies and an empirical fMRI study using optimized imaging parameters. Both studies showed left-lateralized ATL activations to familiar individuals while novel faces activated the right ATL. Activations to famous faces were quite ventral, similar to what has been reported in previous high-resolution fMRI studies of non-human primates. These findings suggest that face memory-sensitive patches in the human ATL are in the ventral/polar ATL.

Keywords: anterior temporal lobe; fMRI; face processing; person memory; semantic memory; social cognition; social networks; temporal pole.