Special processes recruited during the recognition of personally familiar people have been assumed to reflect the rich episodic and semantic information that selectively represents each person. However, the processes may also include person nonselective ones, which may require interpretation in terms beyond the memory mechanism. To examine this possibility, we assessed decrease in differential activation during the second presentation of an identical face (repetition suppression) as an index of person selectivity. During fMRI, pictures of personally familiar, famous, and unfamiliar faces were presented to healthy subjects who performed a familiarity judgment. Each face was presented once in the first half of the experiment and again in the second half. The right inferior temporal and left inferior frontal gyri were activated during the recognition of both types of familiar faces initially, and this activation was suppressed with repetition. Among preferentially activated regions for personally familiar over famous faces, robust suppression in differential activation was exhibited in the bilateral medial and anterior temporal structures, left amygdala, and right posterior STS, all of which are known to process episodic and semantic information. On the other hand, suppression was minimal in the posterior cingulate, medial prefrontal, right inferior frontal, and intraparietal regions, some of which were implicated in social cognition and cognitive control. Thus, the recognition of personally familiar people is characterized not only by person-selective representation but also by nonselective processes requiring a research framework beyond the memory mechanism, such as a social adaptive response.

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