Processing of facial emotion in the human fusiform gyrus.
Electrophysiological and fMRI-based investigations of the ventral temporal cortex of primates provide strong support for regional specialization for the processing of faces. These responses are most frequently found in or near the fusiform gyrus, but there is substantial variability in their anatomical location and response properties. An outstanding question is the extent to which ventral temporal cortex participates in processing dynamic, expressive aspects of faces, a function usually attributed to regions near the superior temporal cortex. Here, we investigated these issues through intracranial recordings from eight human surgical patients. We compared several different aspects of face processing (static and dynamic faces; happy, neutral, and fearful expressions) with power in the high-gamma band (70-150 Hz) from a spectral analysis. Detailed mapping of the response characteristics as a function of anatomical location was conducted in relation to the gyral and sulcal pattern on each patient's brain. The results document responses with high responsiveness for static or dynamic faces, often showing abrupt changes in response properties between spatially close recording sites and idiosyncratic across different subjects. Notably, strong responses to dynamic facial expressions can be found in the fusiform gyrus, just as can responses to static faces. The findings suggest a more complex, fragmented architecture of ventral temporal cortex around the fusiform gyrus, one that includes focal regions of cortex that appear relatively specialized for either static or dynamic aspects of faces.