Perceptual and anatomic patterns of selective deficits in facial identity and expression processing

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Whether a single perceptual process or separate and possibly independent processes support facial identity and expression recognition is unclear. We used a morphed-face discrimination test to examine sensitivity to facial expression and identity information in Patients with occipital or temporal lobe damage, and structural and functional MRI to correlate behavioral deficits with damage to the core regions of the face-processing network. We found selective impairments of identity perception in two Patients with right inferotemporal lesions and two prosopagnosic Patients with damage limited to the anterior temporal lobes. Of these four Patients one exhibited damage to the right fusiform and occipital face areas, while the remaining three showed sparing of these regions. Thus impaired identity perception can occur with damage not only to the fusiform and occipital face areas, but also to other medial occipitotemporal structures that likely form part of a face recognition network. Impaired expression perception was seen in the fifth Patient with damage affecting the face-related portion of the posterior superior temporal sulcus. This subject also had difficulty in discriminating identity when irrelevant variations in expression needed to be discounted. These neuropsychological and neuroimaging data provide evidence to complement models which address the separation of expression and identity perception within the face-processing network.

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