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An event-related brain potential study of explicit face recognition

, : An event-related brain potential study of explicit face recognition. Neuropsychologia 49(9): 2736-2745

To determine the time course of face recognition and its links to face-sensitive event-related potential (ERP) components, ERPs elicited by faces of famous individuals and ERPs to non-famous control faces were compared in a task that required explicit judgements of facial identity. As expected, the face-selective N170 component was unaffected by the difference between famous and non-famous faces. In contrast, the occipito-temporal N250 component was linked to face recognition, as it was selectively triggered by famous faces. Importantly, this component was present for famous faces that were judged to be definitely known relative to famous faces that just appeared familiar, demonstrating that it is associated with the explicit identification of a particular face. The N250 is likely to reflect early perceptual stages of face recognition where long-term memory traces of familiar faces in ventral visual cortex are activated by matching on-line face representations. Famous faces also triggered a broadly distributed longer-latency positivity (P600f) that showed a left-hemisphere bias and was larger for definitely known faces, suggesting links between this component and name generation. These results show that successful face recognition is predicted by ERP components over face-specific visual areas that emerge within 230 ms after stimulus onset.


PMID: 21679721

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.05.025

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