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Neuroscience - Physiology - Radiology and Medical Imaging


Sensory Competition in the Face Processing Areas of the Human Brain
Published: Friday, September 02, 2011
Author: Krisztina Nagy et al.

by Krisztina Nagy, Mark W. Greenlee, Gyula Kovács

The concurrent presentation of multiple stimuli in the visual field may trigger mutually suppressive interactions throughout the ventral visual stream. While several studies have been performed on sensory competition effects among non-face stimuli relatively little is known about the interactions in the human brain for multiple face stimuli. In the present study we analyzed the neuronal basis of sensory competition in an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study using multiple face stimuli. We varied the ratio of faces and phase-noise images within a composite display with a constant number of peripheral stimuli, thereby manipulating the competitive interactions between faces. For contralaterally presented stimuli we observed strong competition effects in the fusiform face area (FFA) bilaterally and in the right lateral occipital area (LOC), but not in the occipital face area (OFA), suggesting their different roles in sensory competition. When we increased the spatial distance among pairs of faces the magnitude of suppressive interactions was reduced in the FFA. Surprisingly, the magnitude of competition depended on the visual hemifield of the stimuli: ipsilateral stimulation reduced the competition effects somewhat in the right LOC while it increased them in the left LOC. This suggests a left hemifield dominance of sensory competition. Our results support the sensory competition theory in the processing of multiple faces and suggests that sensory competition occurs in several cortical areas in both cerebral hemispheres.
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