Decoding representations of face identity that are tolerant to rotation

Cereb Cortex. 2014 Aug;24(8):1988-95. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht046. Epub 2013 Mar 5.


In order to recognize the identity of a face we need to distinguish very similar images (specificity) while also generalizing identity information across image transformations such as changes in orientation (tolerance). Recent studies investigated the representation of individual faces in the brain, but it remains unclear whether the human brain regions that were found encode representations of individual images (specificity) or face identity (specificity plus tolerance). In the present article, we use multivoxel pattern analysis in the human ventral stream to investigate the representation of face identity across rotations in depth, a kind of transformation in which no point in the face image remains unchanged. The results reveal representations of face identity that are tolerant to rotations in depth in occipitotemporal cortex and in anterior temporal cortex, even when the similarity between mirror symmetrical views cannot be used to achieve tolerance. Converging evidence from different analysis techniques shows that the right anterior temporal lobe encodes a comparable amount of identity information to occipitotemporal regions, but this information is encoded over a smaller extent of cortex.

Keywords: FMRI; conspecifics; individual; invariance; viewpoint.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Face*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rotation*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Young Adult