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Activation of the middle fusiform 'face area' increases with expertise in recognizing novel objects

Abstract

Part of the ventral temporal lobe is thought to be critical for face perception, but what determines this specialization remains unknown. We present evidence that expertise recruits the fusiform gyrus 'face area'. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure changes associated with increasing expertise in brain areas selected for their face preference. Acquisition of expertise with novel objects (greebles) led to increased activation in the right hemisphere face areas for matching of upright greebles as compared to matching inverted greebles. The same areas were also more activated in experts than in novices during passive viewing of greebles. Expertise seems to be one factor that leads to specialization in the face area.

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Figure 1: Greebles and sample trials from the sequential-matching task.
Figure 2: Training effect for faces and greebles in four face-specific ROIs.
Figure 3
Figure 4: Activation maps for three novices and three experts in the passive-viewing tasks with faces and greebles.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank René Marois for discussion and Terry Hickey for technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (to M.J.T.) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (to J.C.G.).

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Correspondence to Isabel Gauthier.

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Gauthier, I., Tarr, M., Anderson, A. et al. Activation of the middle fusiform 'face area' increases with expertise in recognizing novel objects. Nat Neurosci 2, 568–573 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/9224

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