Neural Responses to Expression and Gaze in the Posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus Interact with Facial Identity

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Neural models of human face perception propose parallel pathways. One pathway (including posterior superior temporal sulcus, pSTS) is responsible for processing changeable aspects of faces such as gaze and expression, and the other pathway (including the fusiform face area, FFA) is responsible for relatively invariant aspects such as identity. However, to be socially meaningful, changes in expression and gaze must be tracked across an individual face. Our aim was to investigate how this is achieved. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we found a region in pSTS that responded more to sequences of faces varying in gaze and expression in which the identity was constant compared with sequences in which the identity varied. To determine whether this preferential response to same identity faces was due to the processing of identity in the pSTS or was a result of interactions between pSTS and other regions thought to code face identity, we measured the functional connectivity between face-selective regions. We found increased functional connectivity between the pSTS and FFA when participants viewed same identity faces compared with different identity faces. Together, these results suggest that distinct neural pathways involved in expression and identity interact to process the changeable features of the face in a socially meaningful way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-744
Number of pages8
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number3
Early online date21 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Expression
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Face
  • Functional connectivity
  • Gaze direction

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