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P. Downing, N. Kanwisher; A cortical area specialized for visual processing of the human body. Journal of Vision 2001;1(3):341. doi: 10.1167/1.3.341.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Research on modularity in human object recognition has focused on the unique status of faces. The case has been made that faces are special in part because of their evolutionary relevance, their familiarity, and the high degree of configural similarity between exemplars. The same three criteria apply to the remainder of the human body as well. The human body plan is highly consistent, varying only metrically between individuals. In daily life, we constantly see and recognize not just faces but entire people, and the ability to do so has likely been important throughout human evolution. In six fMRI experiments we confirmed the existence of a region of human visual cortex that responds selectively to the appearance of the human body compared to a wide variety of control stimuli. The response of this extrastriate body area (EBA) is strong for both clothed whole bodies and unclothed body parts, whether depicted in photographs or line drawings. The selectivity of the response in the EBA can not be explained by: low level visual characteristics; curved or articulated object structure; the implication of motion; or a general response to anything animate. The EBA is distinct from visual area MT, the lateral occipital complex (LOC), the fusiform face area (FFA), the parahippocampal place area (PPA), and early retinotopic regions of visual cortex. The single striking exception to the pattern of selectivity of the EBA is that it responds no more to whole faces than to inanimate objects, suggesting a division of labor between the FFA and the EBA. These results provide the first evidence from normal subjects for a region of human visual cortex that is selectively involved in the visual perception of bodies.
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