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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

January 2007, Vol. 19, No. 1, Pages 132-146
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2007.19.1.132)
© 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Too Many Trees to See the Forest: Performance, Event-related Potential, and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Manifestations of Integrative Congenital Prosopagnosia
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Neuropsychological, event-related potential (ERP), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods were combined to provide a comprehensive description of performance and neurobiological profiles for K.W., a case of congenital prosopagnosia. We demonstrate that K.W.'s visual perception is characterized by almost unprecedented inability to identify faces, a large bias toward local features, and an extreme deficit in global/configural processing that is not confined to faces. This pattern could be appropriately labeled congenital integrative prosopagnosia, and accounts for some, albeit not all, cases of face recognition impairments without identifiable brain lesions. Absence of face selectivity is evident in both biological markers of face processing, fMRI (the fusiform face area [FFA]), and ERPs (N170). Nevertheless, these two neural signatures probably manifest different perceptual mechanisms. Whereas the N170 is triggered by the occurrence of physiognomic stimuli in the visual field, the deficient face-selective fMRI activation in the caudal brain correlates with the severity of global processing deficits. This correlation suggests that the FFA might be associated with global/configural computation, a crucial part of face identification.