TMS over right OFA affects individuation of faces but not of exemplars of objects

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Abstract

In addition to its well-documented role in processing of faces, the occipital face area in the right hemisphere (rOFA) may also play a role in identifying specific individuals within a class of objects. Here we explored this issue by using fMRI-guided TMS. In a first experiment, participants had to judge whether two sequentially presented images of faces or objects represented exactly the same exemplar or two different exemplars of the same class, while receiving online TMS over either the rOFA, the right lateral occipital cortex (rLO) or the Vertex (control). We found that, relative to Vertex, stimulation of rOFA impaired individuation of faces only, with no effect on objects; in contrast, TMS over rLO reduced individuation of objects but not of faces. In a second control experiment participants judged whether a picture representing a fragment of a stimulus belonged or not to the subsequently presented image of a whole stimulus (part-whole matching task). Our results showed that rOFA stimulation selectively disrupted performance with faces, whereas performance with objects (but not with faces) was selectively affected by TMS over rLO. Overall, our findings suggest that rOFA does not contribute to discriminate between exemplars of non-face objects.

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