Functional delineation of the human occipitotemporal areas related to face and scene processing a PET study

K. Nakamura, R. Kawashima, N. Sato, A. Nakamura, M. Sugiura, T. Kato, K. Hatano, K. Ito, H. Fukuda, T. Schormann, K. Zilles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

277 Citations (Scopus)


By measuring regional cerebral blood flow using PET, we delineated the roles of the occipito-temporal regions activated by faces and scenes. We asked right-handed normal subjects to perform three tasks using facial images as visual stimuli: In the face familiar/unfamiliar discrimination (FF) task, they discriminated the faces of their friends and associates from unfamiliar ones; in the face direction discrimination (FD) task, they discriminated the direction of each unfamiliar face; in the dot location discrimination (DL) task, riley discriminated the location of a red dot on a scrambled face. The activity in each task was compared with that in the control fixation (CF) task, in which they fixated on the centre of a display without visual stimuli. The DL task activated the occipital cortices and posterior fusiform gyri bilaterally. During the FD task, the activation extended anteriorly in the right fusiform gyrus and laterally to the right inferior temporal cortex. The FF task further activated the right temporal pole. To examine whether the activation due to faces was face-specific, we used a scene familiar/unfamiliar discrimination (SF) task, in which the subjects discriminated familiar scenes from unfamiliar ones. Our results suggest that (i) the occipital cortices and posterior fusiform gyri non-selectively respond to faces, scrambled faces and scenes, and are involved mainly in the extraction of physical features of complex visual images; (ii) the right inferior temporal/fusiform gyrus responds selectively to faces but not to non-face stimuli and is involved in the visual processing related to face perception, whereas the bilateral parahippocampal gyri and parieto-occipital junctions respond selectively to scenes and are involved in processing related to scene perception; and (iii) the right temporal pole is activated during the discrimination of familiar faces and scenes from unfamiliar ones, and is probably involved in the recognition of familiar objects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1903-1912
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Brain
  • Familiar
  • Recognition
  • Temporal pole
  • Visual


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