Guided saccades modulate object and face-specific activity in the fusiform gyrus

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We investigated the influence of saccadic eye movements on the magnitude of functional MRI (fMRI) activation in brain regions known to participate in object and face perception. In separate runs, subjects viewed a static image of a uniform gray field, a face, or a flower. Every 500 ms a small fixation cross made a discrete jump within the image and subjects were required to make a saccade and fixate the cross at its new location. Each run consisted of alternating blocks in which the subject was guided to make small and large saccades. A comparison of large vs. small saccade blocks revealed robust activity in the oculomotor system, particularly within the frontal eye fields (FEF), intraparietal sulcus (IPS), and superior colliculi regardless of the background image. Activity within portions of the ventral occipitotemporal cortex (VOTC) including the lingual and fusiform gyri was also modulated by saccades, but here saccade-related activity was strongly influenced by the background image. Activity within the VOTC was strongest when large saccadic eye movements were made over an image of a face or a flower compared to a uniform gray image. Of most interest was activity in the functionally predefined face-specific region of the fusiform gyrus, where large saccades made over a face increased activity, but where similar large saccades made over a flower or a uniform gray field did not increase activity. These results demonstrate the potentially confounding influence of uncontrolled eye movements for neuroimaging studies of face and object perception. Hum Brain Mapp 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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