Independent Neuronal Representation of Facial and Vocal Identity in the Monkey Hippocampus and Inferotemporal Cortex

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Social interactions make up to a large extent the prime material of episodic memories. We therefore asked how social signals are coded by neurons in the hippocampus. Human hippocampus is home to neurons representing familiar individuals in an abstract and invariant manner ( Quian Quiroga et al. 2009). In contradistinction, activity of rat hippocampal cells is only weakly altered by the presence of other rats ( von Heimendahl et al. 2012; Zynyuk et al. 2012). We probed the activity of monkey hippocampal neurons to faces and voices of familiar and unfamiliar individuals (monkeys and humans). Thirty-one percent of neurons recorded without prescreening responded to faces or to voices. Yet responses to faces were more informative about individuals than responses to voices and neuronal responses to facial and vocal identities were not correlated, indicating that in our sample identity information was not conveyed in an invariant manner like in human neurons. Overall, responses displayed by monkey hippocampal neurons were similar to the ones of neurons recorded simultaneously in inferotemporal cortex, whose role in face perception is established. These results demonstrate that the monkey hippocampus participates in the read-out of social information contrary to the rat hippocampus, but possibly lack an explicit conceptual coding of as found in humans.

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