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Paper   IPM / Cognitive Sciences / 17727
School of Cognitive Sciences
  Title:   Spatially Adjacent Regions in Posterior Cingulate Cortex Represent Familiar Faces at Different Levels of Complexity
1.  N. Afzalian
2.  R. Rajimehr
  Status:   Published
  Journal: Journal of Neuroscience
  Vol.:  41
  Year:  2021
  Supported by:  IPM
Extensive research has shown that perceptual information of faces is processed in a network of hierarchically-organized areas within ventral temporal cortex. For familiar and famous faces, perceptual processing of faces is normally accompanied by extraction of semantic knowledge about the social status of persons. Semantic processing of familiar faces could entail progressive stages of information abstraction. However, the cortical mechanisms supporting multistage processing of familiar faces have not been characterized. Here, using an event-related fMRI experiment, familiar faces from four celebrity groups (actors, singers, politicians, and football players) and unfamiliar faces were presented to the human subjects (both males and females) while they were engaged in a face categorization task. We systematically explored the cortical representations for faces, familiar faces, subcategories of familiar faces, and familiar face identities using whole-brain univariate analysis, searchlight-based multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA), and functional connectivity analysis. Convergent evidence from all these analyses revealed a set of overlapping regions within posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) that contained decodable fMRI responses for representing different levels of semantic knowledge about familiar faces. Our results suggest a multistage pathway in PCC for processing semantic information of faces, analogous to the multistage pathway in ventral temporal cortex for processing perceptual information of faces.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Recognizing familiar faces is an important component of social communications. Previous research has shown that a distributed network of brain areas is involved in processing the semantic information of familiar faces. However, it is not clear how different levels of semantic information are represented in the brain. Here, we evaluated the multivariate response patterns across the entire cortex to discover the areas that contain information for familiar faces, subcategories of familiar faces, and identities of familiar faces. The searchlight maps revealed that different levels of semantic information are represented in topographically adjacent areas within posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The results suggest that semantic processing of faces is mediated through progressive stages of information abstraction in PCC.

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