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Does visual subordinate-level categorisation engage the functionally defined fusiform face area?
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to compare brain activation associated with basic-level (e.g. bird) and subordinate-level (e.g. eagle) processing for both visual and semantic judgements. We localised the putative face area for 11 subjects, who also performed visual matching judgements for pictures and aurally presented words. The middle fusiform and occipital gyri were recruited for subordinate minus basic visual judgements, reflecting additional perceptual processing. When the face area was localised individually for each subject, analyses in the middle fusiform gyri revealed that subordinate-level processing activated the individuals face area. We propose that what is unique about the way faces engage this region is the focal spatial distribution of the activation rather than the recruitment of the face per se. Eight subjects also performed semantic judgements on aurally presented basic- and subordinate-level words. The parahippocampal gyri were more activated for subordinate-level than basic-level semantic judgements. Finally, the left posterior inferior temporal gyrus was activated for subordinate-level judgements, both visual and semantic, as well as during passive viewing of faces.