Whole-agent selectivity within the macaque face-processing system

TitleWhole-agent selectivity within the macaque face-processing system
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsFisher, C, Freiwald, WA
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Start Page14717
Date Published10/2015

The primate brain contains a set of face-selective areas, which are thought to extract the rich social information that faces provide, such as emotional state and personal identity. The nature of this information raises a fundamental question about these face-selective areas: Do they respond to a face purely because of its visual attributes, or because the face embodies a larger social agent? Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether the macaque face patch system exhibits a whole-agent response above and beyond its responses to individually presented faces and bodies. We found a systematic development of whole-agent preference through the face patches, from subadditive integration of face and body responses in posterior face patches to superadditive integration in anterior face patches. Superadditivity was not observed for faces atop nonbody objects, implying categorical specificity of face–body interaction. Furthermore, superadditivity was robust to visual degradation of facial detail, suggesting whole-agent selectivity does not require prior face recognition. In contrast, even the body patches immediately adjacent to anterior face areas did not exhibit superadditivity. This asymmetry between face- and body-processing systems may explain why observers attribute bodies’ social signals to faces, and not vice versa. The development of whole-agent selectivity from posterior to anterior face patches, in concert with the recently described development of natural motion selectivity from ventral to dorsal face patches, identifies a single face patch, AF (anterior fundus), as a likely link between the analysis of facial shape and semantic inferences about other agents.

Short TitleProc Natl Acad Sci USA

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