The face-specific N170 component reflects late stages in the structural encoding of faces

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To investigate which stages in the structural encoding of faces are reflected by the face-specific N170 component, ERPs (event-related brain potentials) were recorded in response to different types of face and non-face stimuli. The N170 was strongly attenuated for cheek and back views of faces relative to front and profile views, demonstrating that it is not merely triggered by head detection. Attenuated and delayed N170 components were elicited for faces lacking internal features as well as for faces without external features, suggesting that it is not exclusively sensitive to salient internal features. It is suggested that the N170 is linked to late stages of structural encoding, where representations of global face configurations are generated in order to be utilised by subsequent face recognition processes.

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