Person recognition is critical for appropriate social interactions, however we currently know very little about its neural basis. One possibility is that person knowledge is distributed in a network of modality-specific neural systems. Alternatively, Bruce & Young (1986) suggested a cognitive hierarchical model in which information from modality-specific recognition units (MRUs) is relayed to person identity nodes (PINs) containing or giving access to unified, amodal person representations. This project aims to advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying person identity recognition. Specifically, using fMRI approaches with typical participants and individuals with selective developmental deficits, I plan to accomplish three objectives:
(1) identify the neural regions that represent person identity information irrespective of input modality. Multivariate pattern analysis of neural activations to faces, voices and names of famous individuals will be performed to reveal areas that are sensitive to person identity per se;
(2) reveal the content of identity representations in modality-specific and modality-independent regions. Using fMRI I will examine brain responses to famous, personally-familiar, and newly-learned individuals, from faces, voices and names. Within and across regions of interest and modalities, patterns of brain activation to different experimental conditions will be compared using representational similarity analysis (RSA) to reveal organization principles and representational content;
(3) examine the development of PINs when MRUs are compromised. I plan to conduct a systematic behavioral investigation on identity recognition from various modalities in developmental prosopagnosics, individuals who have severe difficulties recognizing faces. Furthermore, using fMRI and RSA, I will examine the neural organization of PINs and MRUs in these individuals and potential differences to the brain organization of healthy participants.
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