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Face perception : the relationship between identity and expression processing Fox, Christopher James


Current models of face perception suggest independent processing of identity and expression, though this distinction is still unclear. Using converging methods of psychophysics and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in healthy and patient populations we assessed the relationship between these two perceptual processes. First, using perceptual aftereffects, we explored the neural representations underlying identity and expression. The expression aftereffect only partially transferred across different identities, suggesting adaptation within identity-invariant and identity-dependent expression representations. Contrarily, the identity aftereffect fully transferred across different expressions. This asymmetry cannot be explained through low-level adaptation. The identity-dependent component of the expression aftereffect relies on adaptation to a coherent expression, not low-level features, in the adapting face. Thus adaptation generating the expression aftereffect must occur within high-level representations of facial expression. Second, using fMRI adaptation, we examined identity and expression sensitivity in healthy controls. The fusiform face area and posterior superior temporal sulcus showed sensitivity for both identity and expression changes. Independent sensitivity for identity and expression changes was observed in the precuneus and middle superior temporal sulcus respectively. Finally, we explored identity and expression perception in a neuropsychological population. Selective identity impairments were associated with inferior occipitotemporal damage, not necessarily affecting the occipital or fusiform face areas. Impaired expression perception was associated with superior temporal sulcus damage, and also with deficits in the integration of identity and expression. In summary, psychophysics, neuroimaging and neuropsychological methods all provide converging evidence for the independent processing of identity and expression within the face network. However, these same methods also supply converging evidence for a partial dependence of these two perceptual processes: in the expression aftereffect, the functional sensitivities of the FFA and pSTS, and identity deficits observed in a patient with primarily impaired expression perception and a spared inferotemporal cortex. Thus, future models of face perception must incorporate representations or regions which independently process identity or expression as well as those which are involved in the perception of both identity and expression.

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