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Nov 4, 2021

Shared neural codes for visual and semantic information about familiar faces in a common representational space

Posted by in category: space

Our brain processes faces of close others differently than faces of visually familiar individuals. While both types of faces activate similar visual areas, faces of close others activate areas involved in processing social and semantic information. Here, we used between-subject linear classifiers trained on hyperaligned brain data to investigate the neural code for visual and semantic information about familiar others. The identity of both visually and personally familiar faces could be decoded across participants from brain activity in visual areas. Instead, only the identity of personally familiar faces could be decoded in areas involved in social cognition. Our results suggest that individually distinctive information associated with familiar faces is embedded in a neural code that is shared across brains.

Processes evoked by seeing a personally familiar face encompass recognition of visual appearance and activation of social and person knowledge. Whereas visual appearance is the same for all viewers, social and person knowledge may be more idiosyncratic. Using between-subject multivariate decoding of hyperaligned functional magnetic resonance imaging data, we investigated whether representations of personally familiar faces in different parts of the distributed neural system for face perception are shared across individuals who know the same people. We found that the identities of both personally familiar and merely visually familiar faces were decoded accurately across brains in the core system for visual processing, but only the identities of personally familiar faces could be decoded across brains in the extended system for processing nonvisual information associated with faces.

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