Abstract

We examined the neural response patterns for facial identity independent of viewpoint and for viewpoint independent of identity. Neural activation patterns for identity and viewpoint were collected in an fMRI experiment. Faces appeared in identity-constant blocks, with variable viewpoint, and in viewpoint-constant blocks, with variable identity. Pattern-based classifiers were used to discriminate neural response patterns for all possible pairs of identities and viewpoints. To increase the likelihood of detecting distinct neural activation patterns for identity, we tested maximally dissimilar “face”–“antiface” pairs and normal face pairs. Neural response patterns for four of six identity pairs, including the “face”–“antiface” pairs, were discriminated at levels above chance. A behavioral experiment showed accord between perceptual and neural discrimination, indicating that the classifier tapped a high-level visual identity code. Neural activity patterns across a broad span of ventral temporal (VT) cortex, including fusiform gyrus and lateral occipital areas (LOC), were required for identity discrimination. For viewpoint, five of six viewpoint pairs were discriminated neurally. Viewpoint discrimination was most accurate with a broad span of VT cortex, but the neural and perceptual discrimination patterns differed. Less accurate discrimination of viewpoint, more consistent with human perception, was found in right posterior superior temporal sulcus, suggesting redundant viewpoint codes optimized for different functions. This study provides the first evidence that it is possible to dissociate neural activation patterns for identity and viewpoint independently.

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