On the domain-specificity of the visual and non-visual face-selective regions

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What happens in our brains when we see a face? The neural mechanisms of face processing – namely, the face-selective regions – have been extensively explored. Research has traditionally focused on visual cortex face-regions; more recently, the role of face-regions outside the visual cortex (i.e., non-visual-cortex face-regions) has been acknowledged as well. The major quest today is to reveal the functional role of each this region in face processing. To make progress in this direction, it is essential to understand the extent to which the face-regions, and particularly the non-visual-cortex face-regions, process only faces (i.e., face-specific, domain-specific processing) or rather are involved in a more domain-general cognitive processing. In the current functional MRI study, we systematically examined the activity of the whole face-network during face-unrelated reading task (i.e., written meaningful sentences with content unrelated to faces/people and non-words). We found that the non-visual-cortex (i.e., right lateral prefrontal cortex and posterior superior temporal sulcus), but not the visual cortex face-regions, responded significantly stronger to sentences than to non-words. In general, some degree of sentence selectivity was found in all non-visual-cortex cortex. Present result highlights the possibility that the processing in the non-visual-cortex face-selective regions might not be exclusively face-specific, but rather more or even fully domain-general. In this paper, we illustrate how the knowledge about domain-general processing in face-regions can help to advance our general understanding of face processing mechanisms. Our results therefore suggest that the problem of face processing should be approached in the broader scope of cognition in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2063
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • domain-general processing
  • face-selective network
  • functional MRI
  • non-preferred processing
  • prefrontal cortex


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