Attention selectively modifies the representation of individual faces in the human brain.

Gratton, C, Sreenivasan KK, Silver MA, D'Esposito M.  2013.  Attention selectively modifies the representation of individual faces in the human brain., 2013 Apr 17. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 33(16):6979-89.


Attention modifies neural tuning for low-level features, but it is unclear how attention influences tuning for complex stimuli. We investigated this question in humans using fMRI and face stimuli. Participants were shown six faces (F1-F6) along a morph continuum, and selectivity was quantified by constructing tuning curves for individual voxels. Face-selective voxels exhibited greater responses to their preferred face than to nonpreferred faces, particularly in posterior face areas. Anterior face areas instead displayed tuning for face categories: voxels in these areas preferred either the first (F1-F3) or second (F4-F6) half of the morph continuum. Next, we examined the effects of attention on voxel tuning by having subjects direct attention to one of the superimposed images of F1 and F6. We found that attention selectively enhanced responses in voxels preferring the attended face. Together, our results demonstrate that single voxels carry information about individual faces and that the nature of this information varies across cortical face areas. Additionally, we found that attention selectively enhances these representations. Our findings suggest that attention may act via a unitary principle of selective enhancement of responses to both simple and complex stimuli across multiple stages of the visual hierarchy.

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