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Meeting Abstract

How neurons see faces


Sheinberg,  DL
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Sheinberg, D. (1999). How neurons see faces. In H. Bülthoff, M. Fahle, K. Gegenfurtner, & H. Mallot (Eds.), Beiträge zur 2. Tübinger Wahrnehmungskonferenz (pp. 37). Kirchentellinsfurt, Germany: Knirsch.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-E6F7-7
(IT), it has been proposed that there may be areas of the visual cortex specially dedicated to processing faces. The idea that there may exist face specific cortical modules receives support from neuropsychological deficits that appear to selectively disrupt face processing as well as psychophysical findings showing that that faces, as wholes, may be processed differently that the individual parts that compose them. In a recent study, we recorded the activity of 133 visually selective IT neurons located in the same regions of the macaque brain where face selective neurons have been previously reported. A careful examination of these cells revealed that while many of the cells responded to faces better than non-face stimuli, the most robust reponses were always to particular images that had been used previously as test stimuli. For some cells, the best stimuli were indeed faces, but for many others, the visual response was highly selective for other complex stimuli, including both biological and non-biological objects. Furthermore, the physiological properties of the visual responses for cells responding best to face and non-face
stimuli (e.g. latency, maximum firing rate, and selectivity) did not indicate that the face cells constituted a special neural population. Based on these data, we question the idea that face cells, and face modules, are special. Instead, we believe that visually selective responses in inferotemporal cortex reflect a
process of dynamic tuning for configural stimuli that is based on experience. Because faces are both commonly experienced and configurally complex, they are likely to be
well represented by IT cells. However, such selectivity appears to extend beyond faces.