The bottom-up and top-down processing of faces in the human occipitotemporal cortex

Xiaoxu Fan, Fan Wang, Hanyu Shao, Peng Zhang, Sheng He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Although face processing has been studied extensively, the dynamics of how face-selective cortical areas are engaged remains unclear. Here, we uncovered the timing of activation in core face-selective regions using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Magnetoencephalography in humans. Processing of normal faces started in the posterior occipital areas and then proceeded to anterior regions. This bottom-up processing sequence was also observed even when internal facial features were misarranged. However, processing of two-tone Mooney faces lacking explicit prototypical facial features engaged top-down projection from the right posterior fusiform face area to right occipital face area. Further, face-specific responses elicited by contextual cues alone emerged simultaneously in the right ventral face-selective regions, suggesting parallel contextual facilitation. Together, our findings chronicle the precise timing of bottom-up, top-down, as well as context-facilitated processing sequences in the occipital-temporal face network, highlighting the importance of the top-down operations especially when faced with incomplete or ambiguous input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere48764
StatePublished - Jan 14 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Daniel Kersten for helpful comments on the manuscript and Ling Liu for her help in MEG data analysis. This work was supported by the Beijing Science and Technology Project (Z181100001518002, Z171100000117003), the Ministry of Science and Technology of China grants (2015CB351701) and Bureau of International Cooperation, Chinese Academy of Sciences (153311KYSB20160030).

Publisher Copyright:
© Fan et al.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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