TMS of the occipital face area modulates cross-domain identity priming
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Accumulating evidence suggests that besides its function in early facial feature processing, the role of the right occipital face area (rOFA) extends to higher level, image-independent processing. Recent studies hint at the possibility that the activity of this region can be modulated by semantic information as well. To test whether the OFA is sensitive to semantic information in a functionally relevant way, we implemented a cross-domain, name-face priming paradigm combined with state-dependent transcranial magnetic stimulation, whereby stimulation preferentially facilitates the processing of attributes encoded by less active neural populations. Our volunteers performed a familiarity decision task for target face images preceded by primes that were either the name of the same identity (congruent), a name of a different person (incongruent), or the character string ‘XXXXX’ (no prime). Stimulating the rOFA at target stimulus onset, we observed the disappearance of the behavioral disadvantage of incongruent primes, compared to the vertex control condition. Performance in the congruent and no prime conditions remained intact. This result suggests the existence of neural populations in the rOFA that take part in the semantic processing of identity, probably in interplay with other nodes in the extended face network.
KeywordsTranscranial magnetic stimulation Face perception Priming Familiarity Occipital face area
The authors would like to thank Sophie-Marie Rostalski, Ricarda Budny, and Lisa Röhrig for their assistance in participant recruitment and data collection, and Maria Dotzer for the helpful discussion on the topic.
This work was supported by a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Grant (KO 3918/5-1).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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