Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 209, Issue 4, pp 481–493 | Cite as

The role of the occipital face area in the cortical face perception network

  • David Pitcher
  • Vincent Walsh
  • Bradley Duchaine


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have identified spatially distinct face-selective regions in human cortex. These regions have been linked together to form the components of a cortical network specialized for face perception but the cognitive operations performed in each region are not well understood. In this paper, we review the evidence concerning one of these face-selective regions, the occipital face area (OFA), to better understand what cognitive operations it performs in the face perception network. Neuropsychological evidence and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies demonstrate the OFA is necessary for accurate face perception. fMRI and TMS studies investigating the functional role of the OFA suggest that it preferentially represents the parts of a face, including the eyes, nose, and mouth and that it does so at an early stage of visual perception. These studies are consistent with the hypothesis that the OFA is the first stage in a hierarchical face perception network in which the OFA represents facial components prior to subsequent processing of increasingly complex facial features in higher face-selective cortical regions.


Face perception Occipital face area (OFA) Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) 



We thank Galit Yovel and Danny Dilks for their typically perceptive comments and Marius Peelen and Boaz Sadeh for supplying figures. This work was supported by BBSRC grant BB/F022875/1 to BD and VW.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Pitcher
    • 1
  • Vincent Walsh
    • 1
  • Bradley Duchaine
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Brain SciencesDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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