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People are extremely efficient at detecting relevant objects in complex natural scenes. In three experiments, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the role of the extrastriate body area (EBA) in the detection of people in scenes. In Experiment 1, participants reported, in different blocks, whether people or cars were present in a briefly presented scene. Detection (d-prime) of people, but not of cars, was impaired after TMS over right EBA (rEBA; five pulses at −200, −100, 0, 100, 200 ms) compared with sham stimulation. In Experiment 2, we applied TMS either before (−200, −100 ms) or after (+100, +200) the scene onset. Poststimulus EBA stimulation impaired people detection relative to prestimulus EBA stimulation, while timing had no effect during sham stimulation. In Experiment 3, we examined anatomical specificity by comparing TMS over EBA with TMS over scene-selective transverse occipital sulcus (TOS). Two scenes were presented side by side, and response times to detect which scene contained people (or cars) were measured. For people detection, but not for car detection, response times during EBA stimulation were significantly slower than during TOS stimulation. Furthermore, rEBA stimulation led to an equivalent slowing of response times to left and right lateralized targets. These findings are the first to demonstrate the causal involvement of a category-selective human brain region in detecting its preferred stimulus category in natural scenes. They shed light on the nature of such regions, and help us understand how we efficiently extract socially relevant information from a complex input.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7003-7010
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2013
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