Successful decoding of famous faces in the fusiform face area

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 25;10(2):e0117126. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117126. eCollection 2015.


What are the neural mechanisms of face recognition? It is believed that the network of face-selective areas, which spans the occipital, temporal, and frontal cortices, is important in face recognition. A number of previous studies indeed reported that face identity could be discriminated based on patterns of multivoxel activity in the fusiform face area and the anterior temporal lobe. However, given the difficulty in localizing the face-selective area in the anterior temporal lobe, its role in face recognition is still unknown. Furthermore, previous studies limited their analysis to occipito-temporal regions without testing identity decoding in more anterior face-selective regions, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. In the current high-resolution functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging study, we systematically examined the decoding of the identity of famous faces in the temporo-frontal network of face-selective and adjacent non-face-selective regions. A special focus has been put on the face-area in the anterior temporal lobe, which was reliably localized using an optimized scanning protocol. We found that face-identity could be discriminated above chance level only in the fusiform face area. Our results corroborate the role of the fusiform face area in face recognition. Future studies are needed to further explore the role of the more recently discovered anterior face-selective areas in face recognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Face
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Young Adult

Grant support

VA was supported by PhD fellowship from the Levie -Edersheim - Gitter Institute. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.