The role of expression and identity in the face-selective responses of neurons in the temporal visual cortex of the monkey

Behav Brain Res. 1989 Apr 1;32(3):203-18. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(89)80054-3.


Neurophysiological studies have shown that some neurons in the cortex in the superior temporal sulcus and the inferior temporal gyrus of macaque monkeys respond to faces. To determine if facial factors such as expression and identity are encoded independently by face-responsive neurons, 45 neurons were tested on a stimulus set depicting 3 monkeys with 3 expressions each. As tested on a two-way ANOVA, 15 neurons showed response differences to different identities independently of expression, and 9 neurons showed responses to different expressions independently of identity. Three neurons showed significant effects of both factors. Six of the neurons with responses related to expression responded primarily to calm faces, while 2 responded primarily to threat faces. Of a further set of 31 neurons tested on pairs of different expressions, 6 showed strong responses to open-mouth fear or threat expressions, while 2 showed stronger responses to calm faces than threat expressions. Neurons responsive to expression were found primarily in the cortex in the superior temporal sulcus, while neurons responsive to identity were found primarily in the inferior temporal gyrus. The difference in anatomical distribution was statistically significant. This supports the possibility that specific impairments of the recognition of the identity of a face and of its expression in man are due to damage to or disconnection of separate neuronal substrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Facial Expression*
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*