Although prior research suggests that fusiform gyrus represents the sex and race of faces, it remains unclear whether fusiform face area (FFA)–the portion of fusiform gyrus that is functionally-defined by its preferential response to faces–contains such representations. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate whether FFA represents faces by sex and race. Participants were scanned while they categorized the sex and race of unfamiliar Black men, Black women, White men, and White women. Multivariate pattern analysis revealed that multivoxel patterns in FFA–but not other face-selective brain regions, other category-selective brain regions, or early visual cortex–differentiated faces by sex and race. Specifically, patterns of voxel-based responses were more similar between individuals of the same sex than between men and women, and between individuals of the same race than between Black and White individuals. By showing that FFA represents the sex and race of faces, this research contributes to our emerging understanding of how the human brain perceives individuals from two fundamental social categories.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Face recognition area of the brain also notes race and sex.
Hundreds of papers have been written on the fusiform face area (FFA) of our brains, which Contreras et al. now show immediately collects information about race and sex as well, showing patterns of activation that are different for black and white faces, and for female and male faces. Meaning is attached to those identifications later in visual processing. This specialization might have appeared for evolutionary or developmental reasons, for it can be important to know the sex and race of other people, especially in contexts in which those differences should change the way in which you interact with them. Here is their abstract: