Alternating Zones Selective to Faces and Written Words in the Human Ventral Occipitotemporal Cortex

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Recognition of faces and written words is associated with category-specific brain activation in the ventral occipitotemporal cortex (vOT). However, topological and functional relationships between face-selective and word-selective vOT regions remain unclear. In this study, we collected data from patients with intractable epilepsy who underwent high-density recording of surface field potentials in the vOT. “Faces” and “letterstrings” induced outstanding category-selective responses among the 24 visual categories tested, particularly in high-γ band powers. Strikingly, within-hemispheric analysis revealed alternation of face-selective and letterstring-selective zones within the vOT. Two distinct face-selective zones located anterior and posterior portions of the mid-fusiform sulcus whereas letterstring-selective zones alternated between and outside of these 2 face-selective zones. Further, a classification analysis indicated that activity patterns of these zones mostly represent dedicated categories. Functional connectivity analysis using Granger causality indicated asymmetrically directed causal influences from face-selective to letterstring-selective regions. These results challenge the prevailing view that different categories are represented in distinct contiguous regions in the vOT.

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