Now, Galit Yovel and Nancy Kanwisher have tackled two central questions with one set of experiments: the nature of processing that occurs in the FFA and whether the FFA is "domain specific," that is, exclusively involved in face perception, or whether the area is engaged in more general spatial processing of visual features.
Their conclusions are that the FFA extracts configural information about faces rather than processing spatial information on the parts of faces. Also, their studies indicated that the FFA is exclusively involved in face recognition.
The researchers' experiments combined both functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral studies of subjects as they performed recognition tasks. In the widely used technique of fMRI, harmless magnetic fields and radio signals are used to measure brain activity as subjects perform tasks.
In the fMRI studies, volunteer subjects were asked to discriminate differences between faces in which the parts were spaced differently, as well as differences between faces in which some parts were replaced by those of different faces. For the nonface objects, the researchers substituted images of houses, altering the spacing or identity of the windows and doors.
In the behavioral tests, volunteers were asked to match either houses or faces with such differences and their performance was measured. These experiments took advantage of the fact that face recognition shows the unique phenomenon that people find it more difficult to recognize upside-down faces than right-si
Contact: Heidi Hardman