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The N170 occipito-temporal component is delayed and enhanced to inverted faces but not to inverted objects: an electrophysiological account of face-specific processes in the human brain.

journal contribution
posted on 17.01.2000, 00:00 authored by Bruno Rossion, Isabel Gauthier, Michael J. Tarr, P Despland, R Bruyer, S Linotte, M Crommelinck

Behavioral studies have shown that picture-plane inversion impacts face and object recognition differently, thereby suggesting face-specific processing mechanisms in the human brain. Here we used event-related potentials to investigate the time course of this behavioral inversion effect in both faces and novel objects. ERPs were recorded for 14 subjects presented with upright and inverted visual categories, including human faces and novel objects (Greebles). A N170 was obtained for all categories of stimuli, including Greebles. However, only inverted faces delayed and enhanced N170 (bilaterally). These observations indicate that the N170 is not specific to faces, as has been previously claimed. In addition, the amplitude difference between faces and objects does not reflect face-specific mechanisms since it can be smaller than between non-face object categories. There do exist some early differences in the time-course of categorization for faces and non-faces across inversion. This may be attributed either to stimulus category per se (e.g. face-specific mechanisms) or to differences in the level of expertise between these categories.