Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Most studies on visual perception of human beings have focused on perception of faces. However, bodies are another important visual element, which help us to identify a member of our species in the visual scene. In order to study whether similar configural information processing is used in body and face perception, we recorded high-density even-related potentials (ERPs) to normal and distorted faces and bodies in adults and 3-month-old infants. In adults, the N1 responses evoked by bodies and faces were similar in amplitude but differed slightly in latency. The voltage topography of N1 also differed in concordance with fMRI data showing that two distinct areas are involved in face and body perception. Distortion affected ERPs to faces and bodies similarly from N1 on, although the effect was significant earlier for bodies than for faces. These results suggest that fast processing of configural information is not specific to faces but it also occurs for bodies. In 3-month-old infants, distortion decreased the amplitude of P400 around 450 msec, showing no interaction with image category. This result demonstrates that infants are not only able to recognize the normal configuration of faces, but also that of bodies. This could either be related to an innate knowledge of this particular type of biological object, or to fast learning through intense exposure during the first months of life.