The fusiform face area: a module in human extrastriate cortex specialized for face perception

J Neurosci. 1997 Jun 1;17(11):4302-11. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.17-11-04302.1997.


Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found an area in the fusiform gyrus in 12 of the 15 subjects tested that was significantly more active when the subjects viewed faces than when they viewed assorted common objects. This face activation was used to define a specific region of interest individually for each subject, within which several new tests of face specificity were run. In each of five subjects tested, the predefined candidate "face area" also responded significantly more strongly to passive viewing of (1) intact than scrambled two-tone faces, (2) full front-view face photos than front-view photos of houses, and (in a different set of five subjects) (3) three-quarter-view face photos (with hair concealed) than photos of human hands; it also responded more strongly during (4) a consecutive matching task performed on three-quarter-view faces versus hands. Our technique of running multiple tests applied to the same region defined functionally within individual subjects provides a solution to two common problems in functional imaging: (1) the requirement to correct for multiple statistical comparisons and (2) the inevitable ambiguity in the interpretation of any study in which only two or three conditions are compared. Our data allow us to reject alternative accounts of the function of the fusiform face area (area "FF") that appeal to visual attention, subordinate-level classification, or general processing of any animate or human forms, demonstrating that this region is selectively involved in the perception of faces.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology