Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Electrophysiological studies using event-related potentials have demonstrated that face stimuli elicit a greater negative brain potential in right posterior recording sites 170 msec after stimulus onset (N170) relative to nonface stimuli. Results from repetition priming paradigms have shown that repeated exposures of familiar faces elicit a larger negative brainwave (N250r) at inferior temporal sites compared to repetitions of unfamiliar faces. However, less is known about the time course and learning conditions under which the N250 face representation is acquired. In the familiarization phase of the Joe/no Joe task, subjects studied a target “Joe” face (“Jane” for female subjects) and, during the course of the experiment, identified a series of sequentially presented faces as either Joe or not Joe. The critical stimulus conditions included the subject's own face, a same-sex Joe ( Jane) face and a same-sex “other” face. The main finding was that the subject's own face produced a focal negative deflection (N250) in posterior channels relative to nontarget faces. The task-relevant Joe target face was not differentiated from other nontarget faces in the first half of the experiment. However, in the second half, the Joe face produced an N250 response that was similar in magnitude to the own face. These findings suggest that the N250 indexes two types of face memories: a preexperimentally familiar face representation (i.e., the “own face” and a newly acquired face representation (i.e., the Joe/Jane face) that was formed during the course of the experiment.