JOURNAL ARTICLE

The fusiform face area is not sufficient for face recognition: evidence from a patient with dense prosopagnosia and no occipital face area

Jennifer K E Steeves, Jody C Culham, Bradley C Duchaine, Cristiana Cavina Pratesi, Kenneth F Valyear, Igor Schindler, G Keith Humphrey, A David Milner, Melvyn A Goodale
Neuropsychologia 2006, 44 (4): 594-609
16125741
We tested functional activation for faces in patient D.F., who following acquired brain damage has a profound deficit in object recognition based on form (visual form agnosia) and also prosopagnosia that is undocumented to date. Functional imaging demonstrated that like our control observers, D.F. shows significantly more activation when passively viewing face compared to scene images in an area that is consistent with the fusiform face area (FFA) (p < 0.01). Control observers also show occipital face area (OFA) activation; however, whereas D.F.'s lesions appear to overlap the OFA bilaterally. We asked, given that D.F. shows FFA activation for faces, to what extent is she able to recognize faces? D.F. demonstrated a severe impairment in higher level face processing--she could not recognize face identity, gender or emotional expression. In contrast, she performed relatively normally on many face categorization tasks. D.F. can differentiate faces from non-faces given sufficient texture information and processing time, and she can do this is independent of color and illumination information. D.F. can use configural information for categorizing faces when they are presented in an upright but not a sideways orientation and given that she also cannot discriminate half-faces she may rely on a spatially symmetric feature arrangement. Faces appear to be a unique category, which she can classify even when she has no advance knowledge that she will be shown face images. Together, these imaging and behavioral data support the importance of the integrity of a complex network of regions for face identification, including more than just the FFA--in particular the OFA, a region believed to be associated with low-level processing.

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