Shared neural codes for visual and semantic information about familiar faces in a common representational space

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Nov 9;118(45):e2110474118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2110474118.


Processes evoked by seeing a personally familiar face encompass recognition of visual appearance and activation of social and person knowledge. Whereas visual appearance is the same for all viewers, social and person knowledge may be more idiosyncratic. Using between-subject multivariate decoding of hyperaligned functional magnetic resonance imaging data, we investigated whether representations of personally familiar faces in different parts of the distributed neural system for face perception are shared across individuals who know the same people. We found that the identities of both personally familiar and merely visually familiar faces were decoded accurately across brains in the core system for visual processing, but only the identities of personally familiar faces could be decoded across brains in the extended system for processing nonvisual information associated with faces. Our results show that personal interactions with the same individuals lead to shared neural representations of both the seen and unseen features that distinguish their identities.

Keywords: brain decoding; face recognition; familiar face processing; person knowledge; social perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Facial Recognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Semantics