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Task-Specific Codes for Face Recognition: How they Shape the Neural Representation of Features for Detection and Individuation

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journal contribution
posted on 29.12.2008, 00:00 by A Nestor, Jean M. Vettel, Michael J. Tarr
Background: The variety of ways in which faces are categorized makes face recognition challenging for both synthetic and biological vision systems. Here we focus on two face processing tasks, detection and individuation, and explore whether differences in task demands lead to differences both in the features most effective for automatic recognition and in the featural codes recruited by neural processing. Methodology/Principal Findings: Our study appeals to a computational framework characterizing the features representing object categories as sets of overlapping image fragments. Within this framework, we assess the extent to which task-relevant information differs across image fragments. Based on objective differences we find among task-specific representations, we test the sensitivity of the human visual system to these different face descriptions independently of one another. Both behavior and functional magnetic resonance imaging reveal effects elicited by objective task-specific levels of information. Behaviorally, recognition performance with image fragments improves with increasing task-specific information carried by different face fragments. Neurally, this sensitivity to the two tasks manifests as differential localization of neural responses across the ventral visual pathway. Fragments diagnostic for detection evoke larger neural responses than non-diagnostic ones in the right posterior fusiform gyrus and bilaterally in the inferior occipital gyrus. In contrast, fragments diagnostic for individuation evoke larger responses than non-diagnostic ones in the anterior inferior temporal gyrus. Finally, for individuation only, pattern analysis reveals sensitivity to task-specific information within the right "fusiform face area". Conclusions/Significance: Our results demonstrate: 1) information diagnostic for face detection and individuation is roughly separable; 2) the human visual system is independently sensitive to both types of information; 3) neural responses differ according to the type of task-relevant information considered. More generally, these findings provide evidence for the computational utility and the neural validity of fragment-based visual representation and recognition.


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