Characterization of Face-Selective Patches in Orbitofrontal Cortex

Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Jun 14;10:279. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00279. eCollection 2016.


Face processing involves a complex, multimodal brain network. While visual-perceptual face patches in posterior parts of the brain have been studied for over a decade, the existence and properties of face-selective regions in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is a relatively new area of research. While regions of OFC are implicated in the emotional processing of faces, this is typically interpreted as a domain-general response to affective value rather than a face- or socially-specific response. However, electrophysiology studies in monkeys have identified neurons in OFC that respond more to faces than any other stimuli. Here, we characterize the prevalence and location of OFC face-selective regions in 20 healthy college students. We did this by including another biologically motivating category (appetizing foods) in a variant of the standard face localizer. Results show that face-selective patches can be identified at the individual level. Furthermore, in both a region of interest (ROI) and a whole brain analysis, medial regions of the OFC were face-selective, while lateral regions were responsive to faces and foods, indicating a domain-general response in lateral OFC. Medial OFC (mOFC) response to faces scales in relationship to a measure of social motivation that is distinct from face processing abilities associated with fusiform cortex.

Keywords: fMRI; individual differences; motivated attention; vision; visual processing.