Person identity-specific adaptation effects in the ventral occipito-temporal cortex

Sophie Marie Rostalski, Jonathan Edward Robinson, Géza Gergely Ambrus, Patrick Johnston, Gyula Kovács

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Identifying the faces of familiar persons requires the ability to assign several different images of a face to a common identity. Previous research showed that the occipito-temporal cortex, including the fusiform and the occipital face areas, is sensitive to personal identity. Still, the viewpoint, facial expression and image-independence of this information are currently under heavy debate. Here we adapted a rapid serial visual stimulation paradigm Johnston et al. (2016, and presented highly variable ambient-face images of famous persons to measure functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) adaptation. fMRI adaptation is considered as the neuroimaging manifestation of repetition suppression, a neural phenomenon currently explained as a correlate of reduced predictive error responses for expected stimuli. We revisited the question of image-invariant identity-specific encoding mechanisms of the occipito-temporal cortex, using fMRI adaptation with a particular interest in predictive mechanisms. Participants were presented with trials containing eight different images of a famous person, images of eight different famous persons or seven different images of a particular famous person followed by an identity change to violate potential expectation effects about person identity. We found an image-independent adaptation effect of identity for famous faces in the fusiform face area. However, in contrast to previous electrophysiological studies, using similar paradigms, no release of the adaptation effect was observed when identity-specific expectations were violated. Our results support recent multivariate pattern analysis studies, showing image-independent identity encoding in the core face-processing areas of the occipito-temporal cortex. These results are discussed in the frame of recent identity-processing models and predictive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1232-1243
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • fMRI
  • identity recognition
  • image invariance

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