The effect of face patch microstimulation on perception of faces and objects

Nat Neurosci. 2017 May;20(5):743-752. doi: 10.1038/nn.4527. Epub 2017 Mar 13.


What is the range of stimuli encoded by face-selective regions of the brain? We asked how electrical microstimulation of face patches in macaque inferotemporal cortex affects perception of faces and objects. We found that microstimulation strongly distorted face percepts and that this effect depended on precise targeting to the center of face patches. While microstimulation had no effect on the percept of many non-face objects, it did affect the percept of some, including non-face objects whose shape is consistent with a face (for example, apples) as well as somewhat facelike abstract images (for example, cartoon houses). Microstimulation even perturbed the percept of certain objects that did not activate the stimulated face patch at all. Overall, these results indicate that representation of facial identity is localized to face patches, but activity in these patches can also affect perception of face-compatible non-face objects, including objects normally represented in other parts of inferotemporal cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Face / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*