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Published May 10, 2012 | Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

What Makes a Cell Face Selective? The Importance of Contrast


Faces are robustly detected by computer vision algorithms that search for characteristic coarse contrast features. Here, we investigated whether face-selective cells in the primate brain exploit contrast features as well. We recorded from face-selective neurons in macaque inferotemporal cortex, while presenting a face-like collage of regions whose luminances were changed randomly. Modulating contrast combinations between regions induced activity changes ranging from no response to a response greater than that to a real face in 50% of cells. The critical stimulus factor determining response magnitude was contrast polarity, for example, nose region brighter than left eye. Contrast polarity preferences were consistent across cells, suggesting a common computational strategy across the population, and matched features used by computer vision algorithms for face detection. Furthermore, most cells were tuned both for contrast polarity and for the geometry of facial features, suggesting cells encode information useful both for detection and recognition.

Additional Information

© 2012 Elsevier Inc. Accepted 12 March 2012. Available online 9 May 2012. Published: May 9, 2012. We are grateful to Nicole Schweers for outstanding technical assistance. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (1R01EY019702), National Science Foundation (BCS-0847798), a Searle Scholar Award (to D.Y.T.), the Irma T. Hirschl/Monique Weill-Caulier Trust, the Esther & Joseph Klingenstein Fund, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience (to W.A.F.).

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Accepted Version - nihms371002.pdf


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