Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Very little is known about the neural structures involved in the perception of realistic dynamic facial expressions. In the present study, a unique set of naturalistic dynamic facial emotional expressions was created. Through fMRI and connectivity analysis, a dynamic face perception network was identified, which is demonstrated to extend Haxby et al.'s [Haxby, J. V., Hoffman, E. A., & Gobbini, M. I. The distributed human neural system for face perception. Trends in Cognitive Science, 4, 223–233, 2000] distributed neural system for face perception. This network includes early visual regions, such as the inferior occipital gyrus, which is identified as insensitive to motion or affect but sensitive to the visual stimulus, the STS, identified as specifically sensitive to motion, and the amygdala, recruited to process affect. Measures of effective connectivity between these regions revealed that dynamic facial stimuli were associated with specific increases in connectivity between early visual regions, such as the inferior occipital gyrus and the STS, along with coupling between the STS and the amygdala, as well as the inferior frontal gyrus. These findings support the presence of a distributed network of cortical regions that mediate the perception of different dynamic facial expressions.