Recognizing faces, a critical social skill, is among the most challenging perceptual and memory tasks the human visual system performs. Some patients with cerebral lesions suffer from prosopagnosia, a relatively selective failure to recognize faces. The overall aim of our work is to advance our understanding of the basis of this unusual failure in different patients, both in its functional and anatomic aspects, information that is important also for cognitive theories of normal face processing. We focus on several key issues. First, in some patients the recognition problem is due to a failure to perceive the structure of a face. By using facial stimuli with carefully manipulated changes, we will characterize the type of structural encoding that is lacking. These focus upon theorized distinctions between features, external contour, internal facial geometry, and normative rules of facial structure. We compare these data to parallel studies of normal subjects viewing inverted faces, a maneuver said to disable the normal adult human expertise with faces. Our protocols will address not only what is seen in faces but also how these data are processed in both normal subjects and patients. We will also use non-facial stimuli to determine if the encoding defect is selective for faces or involves other objects, a point of theoretical importance debated in both the patient and functional imaging literature. To clarify the specificity of the perceptual encoding defects in prosopagnosia that we uncover, we perform parallel studies in similar patients with medial occipitotemporal damage but not prosopagnosia. We use both behavioral studies to characterize their function, and functional imaging to characterize the structure-function correlations in both prosopagnosic and non-prosopagnosic controls. Second, we focus on another stage in cognitive models of face processing, facial memories. We use imagery to examine not only the status of facial memories, but the type of facial memories present (feature- or configuration-based). We hypothesize that anterior temporal structures may be critical to this function, and propose a study of patients with temporal lobectomy to address the question of the anatomic correlate of facial memories. Last, we integrate the perceptual and imagery data in prosopagnosia in a study of covert recognition. From our prior work, we hypothesize that covert or unconscious recognition is the residual product of a partially damaged face network in the brain. We propose a functional imaging experiment to test this hypothesis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Biobehavioral and Behavioral Processes 3 (BBBP)
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Kurtzman, Howard S
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University of British Columbia
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V6 1-Z3
Fox, Christopher J; Hanif, Hashim M; Iaria, Giuseppe et al. (2011) Perceptual and anatomic patterns of selective deficits in facial identity and expression processing. Neuropsychologia 49:3188-200
Attia, E; Kaplan, A S; Walsh, B T et al. (2011) Olanzapine versus placebo for out-patients with anorexia nervosa. Psychol Med 41:2177-82
Iaria, Giuseppe; Fox, Christopher J; Scheel, Michael et al. (2010) A case of persistent visual hallucinations of faces following LSD abuse: a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging study. Neurocase 16:106-18
Fox, Christopher J; Iaria, Giuseppe; Barton, Jason J S (2009) Defining the face processing network: optimization of the functional localizer in fMRI. Hum Brain Mapp 30:1637-51
Barton, Jason J S (2009) What is meant by impaired configural processing in acquired prosopagnosia? Perception 38:242-60
Iaria, Giuseppe; Bogod, Nicholas; Fox, Christopher J et al. (2009) Developmental topographical disorientation: case one. Neuropsychologia 47:30-40
Fox, Christopher J; Moon, So Young; Iaria, Giuseppe et al. (2009) The correlates of subjective perception of identity and expression in the face network: an fMRI adaptation study. Neuroimage 44:569-80
Hefter, Rebecca; Jerskey, Beth A; Barton, Jason J S (2008) The biasing of figure-ground assignment by shading cues for objects and faces in prosopagnosia. Perception 37:1412-25
Sekunova, Alla; Barton, Jason J S (2008) The effects of face inversion on the perception of long-range and local spatial relations in eye and mouth configuration. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 34:1129-35
Iaria, G; Fox, C J; Waite, C T et al. (2008) The contribution of the fusiform gyrus and superior temporal sulcus in processing facial attractiveness: neuropsychological and neuroimaging evidence. Neuroscience 155:409-22

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