Face percept formation in human ventral temporal cortex

Kai J. Miller, Dora Hermes, Franco Pestilli, Gagan S. Wig, Jeffrey G. Ojemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Loci in ventral temporal cortex are selectively active during viewing of faces and other objects, but it remains unclear whether these areas represent accumulation of simple visual information or processing of intact percept. We measured broadband electrocorticographic changes from implanted electrodes on the ventral temporal brain surface while showing patients noise-degraded images of faces and houses. In a subset of posterior fusiform gyrus faceselective regions, cortical activity decreased parametrically with noise increase, until the perceptual threshold was surpassed. At noise levels higher than the perceptual threshold, and for house stimuli, activity remained at baseline. We propose that this convergence of proportional and thresholded response may identify active areas where face percepts are extracted from simple visual features. These loci exist within a topological structure of face percept formation in the human ventral visual stream, preceded by category-nonselective activity in pericalcarine early visual areas and in concert with all-or-nothing activity in postperceptual subregions of the ventral temporal lobe. This topological organization suggests a physiological basis for the anatomy of face perception, explaining different perceptual deficits following temporal lobe injury. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Philosophers have puzzled for millennia about how humans build abstract conceptual objects (house/face/tool) from the simple features of the world they see around them (line/ patch/lighting). Understanding the biological foundation of this process requires detailed knowledge of the spatial-temporal characteristics of cerebral cortex. By examining the physiology of the human temporal lobe via implanted electrodes while showing subjects noisedegraded images, we find that face percept formation happens in specific subregions within known face-processing areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2614-2627
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Electrocorticography
  • Face processing
  • Human brain
  • Perception
  • Prosopagnosia
  • Temporal lobe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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