The involvement of the "fusiform face area" in processing facial expression

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  • Tzvi Ganel
    University of Western Ontario, Canada
  • Kenneth F Valyear
    University of Western Ontario, Canada
  • Yonatan Goshen-Gottstein
    University of Tel Aviv, Istael
  • Melvyn A Goodale
    University of Western Ontario, Canada

We conducted an fMRI investigation to test the widely accepted notion that the fusiform face area (FFA) mediates the processing of facial identity but not expression. Participants attended either to the identity or to the expression of the same set of faces. If the processing of identity is neuroanatomically dissociable from that of expression, then one might expect the FFA to show higher activation when processing identity as opposed to expression. Contrary to this prediction, the FFA showed higher activation for judgments of expression. Furthermore, the FFA was sensitive to variations in expression even when attention was directed to identity. Finally, an independent observation showed higher activation in the FFA for passive viewing of faces when expression was varied as compared to when it remained constant. These findings suggest an interactive network for the processing of expression and identity, in which information about expression is computed from the unique structure of individual faces.


  • Analysis of Variance, Attention, Brain, Brain Mapping, Face, Facial Expression, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Oxygen, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Photic Stimulation, Recognition (Psychology), Statistics as Topic, Comparative Study, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-54
Number of pages10
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes
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