From eye to face: The impact of face outline, feature number, and feature saliency on the early neural response to faces
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The LIFTED model of early face perception postulates that the face-sensitive N170 event-related potential may reflect underlying neural inhibition mechanisms which serve to regulate holistic and featural processing. It remains unclear, however, what specific factors impact these neural inhibition processes. Here, N170 peak responses were recorded whilst adults maintained fixation on a single eye using a gaze-contingent paradigm, and the presence/absence of a face outline, as well as the number and type of parafoveal features within the outline, were manipulated. N170 amplitudes and latencies were reduced when a single eye was fixated within a face outline compared to fixation on the same eye in isolation, demonstrating that the simple presence of a face outline is sufficient to elicit a shift towards a more face-like neural response. A monotonic decrease in the N170 amplitude and latency was observed with increasing numbers of parafoveal features, and the type of feature(s) present in parafovea further modulated this early face response. These results support the idea of neural inhibition exerted by parafoveal features onto the foveated feature as a function of the number, and possibly the nature, of parafoveal features. Specifically, the results suggest the use of a feature saliency framework (eyes > mouth > nose) at the neural level, such that the parafoveal eye may play a role in down-regulating the response to the other eye (in fovea) more so than the nose or the mouth. These results confirm the importance of parafoveal features and the face outline in the neural inhibition mechanism, and provide further support for a feature saliency mechanism guiding early face perception.
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Karisa B. Parkington, Roxane J. Itier (2019). From eye to face: The impact of face outline, feature number, and feature saliency on the early neural response to faces. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15279
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