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Marisa Nordt, Kilian Semmelmann, Erhan Genç, Sarah Weigelt; Is this the same face? Developmental increases of the tolerance of within-person variability in the fusiform face area. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):456. doi: 10.1167/17.10.456.
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The ability to discriminate and recognize faces undergoes prolonged development from childhood to adulthood, thereby raising the question which neural underpinnings are driving this development. So far, most research has focused on the ability to discriminate between faces (between-person variability), and there is first evidence, that the development of perceptual discriminability of face identity is correlated with increased neural sensitivity to face identity in face-selective regions. Here, we address the development of the neural foundation of the ability to recognize a face despite changes in appearance (within-person variability). Fourteen children (ages, 7-10) and 14 adults (ages, 20-23) watched series of images of either the same of different faces in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) adaptation paradigm. Importantly, images of the same face could either be exact repetitions of an image or include different images of the same face (within-person variability). In addition to fMRI, a subset of participants completed a behavioral task, in which they had to decide if the face in two consecutively presented images belonged to the same person. Results from region of interest analyses based on both a functional as well as an anatomical approach replicate age-related increases in neural sensitivity to face identity in the fusiform face area (Natu et al., 2016). Most importantly, however, our results show that this sensitivity was less tolerant towards within-person variability - as indicated by less adaptation for different images of the same person - in children compared to adults. Crucially, the amount of adaptation to face identity despite within-person variability was correlated with the behavioral ability to recognize individual faces despite changes. In sum, our results suggest that increases of the tolerance of within-person variability in face-selective regions are related to the development of face recognition skills.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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