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Colin Palmer, Kiley Seymour, Yumiko Otsuka, Colin Clifford; Neural processing of others' gaze independent of specific facial features. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):196. doi: 10.1167/18.10.196.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Our sense of where another person is looking relies on perceptual integration of head and eye region information. For example, the feeling of being looked at by another person can be elicited by many different configurations of their head position and eye deviation. In primates, the anterior superior temporal sulcus (STS) is implicated in the visual processing of these facial features, but whether this region underlies our perceptual experience of others' direction of gaze is unknown. Here, we exploited a classic visual illusion in which identical eye regions are seen as looking in different directions depending on the orientation of the surrounding head. With functional MRI, we measured differences in neural activation in human observers (n = 12) to faces that appeared to be regarding them versus faces that appeared to be looking elsewhere, while exactly matching the facial features in the stimulus that combine to produce these percepts. This revealed a neural correlate of perceived gaze direction in anterior STS, namely an increased response when gaze was directed away from the observer. These data extend upon existing knowledge by identifying neural responses that reflect a sense of where other people are looking that is independent of the particular facial attributes that convey this information in a given moment.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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