Perception and processing of faces in the human brain is tuned to typical feature locations

Benjamin de Haas*, D. Samuel Schwarzkopf, Ivan Alvarez, Rebecca P. Lawson, Linda Henriksson, Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, Geraint Rees

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
201 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Faces are salient social stimuli whose features attract a stereotypical pattern of fixations. The implications of this gaze behavior for perception and brain activity are largely unknown. Here, we characterize and quantify a retinotopic bias implied by typical gaze behavior toward faces, which leads to eyes and mouth appearing most often in the upper and lower visual field, respectively. We found that the adult human visual system is tuned to these contingencies. In two recognition experiments, recognition performance for isolated face parts was better when they were presented at typical, rather than reversed, visual field locations. The recognition cost of reversed locations was equal to_60% of that for whole face inversion in the same sample. Similarly, an fMRI experiment showed that patterns of activity evoked by eye and mouth stimuli in the right inferior occipital gyrus could be separated with significantly higher accuracy when these features were presented at typical, rather than reversed, visual field locations. Our findings demonstrate thathumanface perception is determined not only by the local position of features within a face context, but by whether features appear at the typical retinotopic location given normal gaze behavior. Such location sensitivity may reflect fine-tuning of category-specific visual processing to retinal input statistics. Our findings further suggest that retinotopic heterogeneity might play a role for face inversion effects and for the understanding of conditions affecting gaze behavior toward faces, such as autism spectrum disorders and congenital prosopagnosia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9289-9302
Number of pages14
JournalJOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
Volume36
Issue number36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Decoding
  • Face perception
  • fMRI
  • Gaze behavior
  • Occipital face area
  • Retinotopy

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