The functional architecture for face-processing expertise: FMRI evidence of the developmental trajectory of the core and the extended face systems

Neuropsychologia. 2013 Nov;51(13):2893-908. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.08.005. Epub 2013 Aug 12.


Expertise in processing faces is a cornerstone of human social interaction. However, the developmental course of many key brain regions supporting face preferential processing in the human brain remains undefined. Here, we present findings from an FMRI study using a simple viewing paradigm of faces and objects in a continuous age sample covering the age range from 6 years through adulthood. These findings are the first to use such a sample paired with whole-brain FMRI analyses to investigate development within the core and extended face networks across the developmental spectrum from middle childhood to adulthood. We found evidence, albeit modest, for a developmental trend in the volume of the right fusiform face area (rFFA) but no developmental change in the intensity of activation. From a spatial perspective, the middle portion of the right fusiform gyrus most commonly found in adult studies of face processing was increasingly likely to be included in the FFA as age increased to adulthood. Outside of the FFA, the most striking finding was that children hyperactivated nearly every aspect of the extended face system relative to adults, including the amygdala, anterior temporal pole, insula, inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate gyrus, and parietal cortex. Overall, the findings suggest that development is best characterized by increasing modulation of face-sensitive regions throughout the brain to engage only those systems necessary for task requirements.

Keywords: Brain development; Core and extended face networks; FFA; FG; Functional MRI; Fusiform face area: face processing expertise; OFA; STS; VOT; fusiform face area(s); fusiform gyrus; occipital face area; superior temporal sulcus; ventral occipitotemporal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Child
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen