View-independent coding of face identity in frontal and temporal cortices is modulated by familiarity: An event-related fMRI study

Gilles Pourtois, Sophie Schwartz, Mohamed L. Seghier, François Lazeyras, Patrik Vuilleumier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Face recognition is a unique visual skill enabling us to recognize a large number of person identities, despite many differences in the visual image from one exposure to another due to changes in viewpoint, illumination, or simply passage of time. Previous familiarity with a face may facilitate recognition when visual changes are important. Using event-related fMRI in 13 healthy observers, we studied the brain systems involved in extracting face identity independent of modifications in visual appearance during a repetition priming paradigm in which two different photographs of the same face (either famous or unfamiliar) were repeated at varying delays. We found that functionally defined face-selective areas in the lateral fusiform cortex showed no repetition effects for faces across changes in image views, irrespective of pre-existing familiarity, suggesting that face representations formed in this region do not generalize across different visual images, even for well-known faces. Repetition of different but easily recognizable views of an unfamiliar face produced selective repetition decreases in a medial portion of the right fusiform gyrus, whereas distinct views of a famous face produced repetition decreases in left middle temporal and left inferior frontal cortex selectively, but no decreases in fusiform cortex. These findings reveal that different views of the same familiar face may not be integrated within a single representation at initial perceptual stages subserved by the fusiform face areas, but rather involve later processing stages where more abstract identity information is accessed.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1214-1224
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2005


  • Event-related fMRI
  • Face recognition
  • Familiarity
  • Fusiform gyrus
  • Repetition priming


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