Abstract

We used ERPs to investigate neural correlates of face learning. At learning, participants viewed video clips of unfamiliar people, which were presented either with or without voices providing semantic information. In a subsequent face-recognition task (four trial blocks), learned faces were repeated once per block and presented interspersed with novel faces. To disentangle face from image learning, we used different images for face repetitions. Block effects demonstrated that engaging in the face-recognition task modulated ERPs between 170 and 900 msec poststimulus onset for learned and novel faces. In addition, multiple repetitions of different exemplars of learned faces elicited an increased bilateral N250. Source localizations of this N250 for learned faces suggested activity in fusiform gyrus, similar to that found previously for N250r in repetition priming paradigms [Schweinberger, S. R., Pickering, E. C., Jentzsch, I., Burton, A. M., & Kaufmann, J. M. Event-related brain potential evidence for a response of inferior temporal cortex to familiar face repetitions. Cognitive Brain Research, 14, 398–409, 2002]. Multiple repetitions of learned faces also elicited increased central–parietal positivity between 400 and 600 msec and caused a bilateral increase of inferior–temporal negativity (>300 msec) compared with novel faces. Semantic information at learning enhanced recognition rates. Faces that had been learned with semantic information elicited somewhat less negative amplitudes between 700 and 900 msec over left inferior–temporal sites. Overall, the findings demonstrate a role of the temporal N250 ERP in the acquisition of new face representations across different images. They also suggest that, compared with visual presentation alone, additional semantic information at learning facilitates postperceptual processing in recognition but does not facilitate perceptual analysis of learned faces.

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