High-resolution imaging of expertise reveals reliable object selectivity in the fusiform face area related to perceptual performance.

McGugin RW, Gatenby JC, Gore JC, Gauthier I
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 109 (42): 17063-8

PMID: 23027970 · PMCID: PMC3479484 · DOI:10.1073/pnas.1116333109

The fusiform face area (FFA) is a region of human cortex that responds selectively to faces, but whether it supports a more general function relevant for perceptual expertise is debated. Although both faces and objects of expertise engage many brain areas, the FFA remains the focus of the strongest modular claims and the clearest predictions about expertise. Functional MRI studies at standard-resolution (SR-fMRI) have found responses in the FFA for nonface objects of expertise, but high-resolution fMRI (HR-fMRI) in the FFA [Grill-Spector K, et al. (2006) Nat Neurosci 9:1177-1185] and neurophysiology in face patches in the monkey brain [Tsao DY, et al. (2006) Science 311:670-674] reveal no reliable selectivity for objects. It is thus possible that FFA responses to objects with SR-fMRI are a result of spatial blurring of responses from nonface-selective areas, potentially driven by attention to objects of expertise. Using HR-fMRI in two experiments, we provide evidence of reliable responses to cars in the FFA that correlate with behavioral car expertise. Effects of expertise in the FFA for nonface objects cannot be attributed to spatial blurring beyond the scale at which modular claims have been made, and within the lateral fusiform gyrus, they are restricted to a small area (200 mm(2) on the right and 50 mm(2) on the left) centered on the peak of face selectivity. Experience with a category may be sufficient to explain the spatially clustered face selectivity observed in this region.

MeSH Terms (13)

Adult Automobiles Brain Mapping Face Female Form Perception Humans Linear Models Magnetic Resonance Imaging Male Pattern Recognition, Visual Professional Competence Temporal Lobe

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