Featural and configural face processing strategies: evidence from a functional magnetic resonance imaging study

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Abstract

We explored the processing mechanisms of featural and configural face information using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Featural information describes the information contained in the facial parts; configural information conveys the spatial interrelationship between parts. In a delayed matching-to-sample task, participants decided whether an intact test face matched a precedent scrambled or blurred cue face. Scrambled faces primarily contain featural information whereas blurred faces preserve configural information. Scrambled cue faces evoked enhanced activation in the left fusiform gyrus, left parietal lobe, and left lingual gyrus when viewing intact test faces. Following blurred cue faces, test faces enhanced activation bilaterally in the middle temporal gyrus. The results suggest that featural and configural information is processed by following distinct neural pathways.

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