Face-Specific Activity in the Ventral Stream Visual Cortex Linked to Conscious Face Perception

 Wenlu Li1,2 · Dan Cao1  · Jin Li3  · Tianzi Jiang1,2,4,5
1 Brainnetome Center, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China 
2 School of Artifcial Intelligence, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China 
3 School of Psychology, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China 
4 Research Center for Augmented Intelligence, Zhejiang Lab, Hangzhou 311100, China 
5 Xiaoxiang Institute for Brain Health and Yongzhou Central Hospital, Yongzhou 425000, China

When presented with visual stimuli of face images, the ventral stream visual cortex of the human brain exhibits face-specific activity that is modulated by the physical properties of the input images. However, it is still unclear whether this activity relates to conscious face perception. We explored this issue by using the human intracranial electroencephalography technique. Our results showed that face-specific activity in the ventral stream visual cortex was significantly higher when the subjects subjectively saw faces than when they did not, even when face stimuli were presented in both conditions. In addition, the face-specific neural activity exhibited a more reliable neural response and increased posterior-anterior direction information transfer in the “seen” condition than the “unseen” condition. Furthermore, the face-specific neural activity was significantly correlated with performance. These findings support the view that face-specific activity in the ventral stream visual cortex is linked to conscious face perception.

Face-specifc; Conscious face perception; Ventral stream visual cortex; Intracranial EEG