Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
fMRI studies have reported three regions in human ventral visual cortex that respond selectively to faces: the occipital face area (OFA), the fusiform face area (FFA), and a face-selective region in the superior temporal sulcus (fSTS). Here, we asked whether these areas respond to two first-order aspects of the face argued to be important for face perception, face parts (eyes, nose, and mouth), and the T-shaped spatial configuration of these parts. Specifically, we measured the magnitude of response in these areas to stimuli that (i) either contained real face parts, or did not, and (ii) either had veridical face configurations, or did not. The OFA and the fSTS were sensitive only to the presence of real face parts, not to the correct configuration of those parts, whereas the FFA was sensitive to both face parts and face configuration. Further, only in the FFA was the response to configuration and part information correlated across voxels, suggesting that the FFA contains a unified representation that includes both kinds of information. In combination with prior results from fMRI, TMS, MEG, and patient studies, our data illuminate the functional division of labor in the OFA, FFA, and fSTS.