Precedence of the Eye Region in Neural Processing of Faces
Elias B. Issa and James J. DiCarlo
J. Neurosci. 2012;32 16666-16682
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revealed multiple subregions in monkey inferior temporal cortex (IT) that are selective for images of faces over other objects. The earliest of these subregions, the posterior lateral face patch (PL), has not been studied previously at the neurophysiological level. Perhaps not surprisingly, we found that PL contains a high concentration of “face-selective” cells when tested with standard image sets comparable to those used previously to define the region at the level of fMRI. However, we here report that several different image sets and analytical approaches converge to show that nearly all face-selective PL cells are driven by the presence of a single eye in the context of a face outline. Most strikingly, images containing only an eye, even when incorrectly positioned in an outline, drove neurons nearly as well as full-face images, and face images lacking only this feature led to longer latency responses. Thus, bottom-up face processing is relatively local and linearly integrates features—consistent with parts-based models—grounding investigation of how the presence of a face is first inferred in the IT face processing hierarchy.