It is widely assumed that the fusiform face area (FFA), a brain region specialized for face perception, is not involved in processing emotional expressions. This assumption is based on the proposition that the FFA is involved in face identification and only processes features that are invariant across changes due to head movements, speaking and expressing emotions. The present study tested this proposition by examining whether the response in the human FFA varies across emotional expressions with functional magnetic resonance imaging and brain decoding analysis techniques (n = 11). A one vs. all classification analysis showed that most emotional expressions that participants perceived could be reliably predicted from the neural pattern of activity in left and the right FFA, suggesting that the perception of different emotional expressions recruit partially non-overlapping neural mechanisms. In addition, emotional expressions could also be decoded from the pattern of activity in the early visual cortex (EVC), indicating that retinotopic cortex also shows a differential response to emotional expressions. These results cast doubt on the idea that the FFA is involved in expression invariant face processing, and instead indicate that emotional expressions evoke partially de-correlated signals throughout occipital and posterior temporal cortex.
- Face processing
- Fusiform face area
- Multivariate pattern analysis