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fMRI evidence that hyper-caricatured faces activate object-selective cortex

Elson, Ryan; Schluppeck, Denis; Johnston, Alan

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Ryan Elson

Professor of Psychology


Many brain imaging studies have looked at the cortical responses to object categories and faces. A popular way to manipulate face stimuli is by using a “face space,” a high dimensional representation of individual face images, with the average face located at the origin. However, how the brain responds to faces that deviate substantially from average has not been much explored. Increasing the distance from the average (leading to increased caricaturing) could increase neural responses in face-selective regions, an idea supported by results from non-human primates. Here, we used a face space based on principal component analysis (PCA) to generate faces ranging from average to heavily caricatured. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we first independently defined face-, object- and scene-selective areas with a localiser scan and then measured responses to parametrically caricatured faces. We also included conditions in which the images of faces were inverted. Interestingly in the right fusiform face area (FFA), we found that the patterns of fMRI response were more consistent as caricaturing increased. However, we found no consistent effect of either caricature level or facial inversion on the average fMRI response in the FFA or face-selective regions more broadly. In contrast, object-selective regions showed an increase in both the consistency of response pattern and the average fMRI response with increasing caricature level. This shows that caricatured faces recruit processing from regions typically defined as object-selective, possibly through enhancing low-level properties that are characteristic of objects.


Elson, R., Schluppeck, D., & Johnston, A. (2023). fMRI evidence that hyper-caricatured faces activate object-selective cortex. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, Article 1035524.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 20, 2022
Online Publication Date Jan 12, 2023
Publication Date Jan 12, 2023
Deposit Date Mar 15, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2023
Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media SA
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Article Number 1035524
Keywords faces, object-selective cortex, PCA, face space, fMRI, caricatured faces
Public URL
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