Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
N400 brain event-related potential (ERP) is a mismatch negativity originally found in response to semantic incongruences of a linguistic nature and is used paradigmatically to investigate memory organization in various domains of information, including that of faces. In the present study, we analyzed different mismatch negativities evoked in N400-like paradigms related to recognition of newly learned faces with or without associated verbal information. ERPs were compared in the following conditions: (1) mismatching features (eyes-eyebrows) using a facial context corresponding to the faces learned without associated verbal information (“pure” intradomain facial processing); (2) mismatching features using a facial context corresponding to the faces learned with associated occupations and proper names (“nonpure” intradomain facial processing); (3) mismatching occupations using a facial context (cross-domain processing); and (4) mismatching names using an occupation context (intra-domain verbal processing). Results revealed that mismatching stimuli in the four conditions elicited a mismatch negativity analogous to N400 but with different timing and topo-graphical patterns. The onset of the mismatch negativity occurred earliest in Conditions 1 and 2, followed by Condition 4, and latest in Condition 3. The negativity had the shortest duration in Task 1 and the longest duration in Task 3. Bilateral parietal activity was confirmed in all conditions, in addition to a predominant right posterior temporal localization in Condition 1, a predominant right frontal localization in Condition 2, an occipital localization in Condition 3, and a more widely distributed (although with posterior predominance) localization in Condition 4. These results support the existence of multiple N400, and particularly of a nonlinguistic N400 related to purely visual information, which can be evoked by facial structure processing in the absence of verbal-semantic information.