An early category-specific neural response for the perception of both places and faces

Cogn Neurosci. 2012;3(1):45-51. doi: 10.1080/17588928.2011.604726. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Rapid and accurate recognition of faces and places is crucial in everyday life. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies have demonstrated that the human visual system can categorize an incoming visual stimulus as a face within 100 ms, as reflected by the M100. No similar, early, place-specific MEG component has been described, somewhat surprisingly, as there is behavioral evidence for rapid visual categorization of places. The current study aimed to explore the existence, as well as the spatio-temporal dynamics, of a place-selective MEG component. MEG activity was recorded while 10 participants were presented with pairs of face and place stimuli. Our results show that the perception of places generates a category-specific MEG component (M100p), which occurs just as early as that seen for faces. Our findings suggest that early visual categorization within cortical areas does not occur exclusively for faces, but instead may be a more general phenomenon.