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Guillaume A. Rousselet, Marc J.-M. Macé, Michèle Fabre-Thorpe; Animal and human faces in natural scenes: How specific to human faces is the N170 ERP component?. Journal of Vision 2004;4(1):2. doi: 10.1167/4.1.2.
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The N170 is an event-related potential component reported to be very sensitive to human face stimuli. This study investigated the specificity of the N170, as well as its sensitivity to inversion and task status when subjects had to categorize either human or animal faces in the context of upright and inverted natural scenes. A conspicuous N170 was recorded for both face categories. Pictures of animal faces were associated with a N170 of similar amplitude compared to pictures of human faces, but with delayed peak latency. Picture inversion enhanced N170 amplitude for human faces and delayed its peak for both human and animal faces. Finally, whether processed as targets or non-targets, depending on the task, both human and animal face N170 were identical. Thus, human faces in natural scenes elicit a clear but non-specific N170 that is not modulated by task status. What appears to be specific to human faces is the strength of the inversion effect.
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