Social Origins of Cortical Face Areas

TitleSocial Origins of Cortical Face Areas
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsPowell, L. J., Kosakowski H. L., & Saxe R.
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Date Published09/2018

Recently acquired fMRI data from human and macaque infants provide novel insights into the origins of cortical networks specialized for perceiving faces. Data from both species converge: cortical regions responding preferentially to faces are present and spatially organized early in infancy, although fully selective face areas emerge much later. What explains the earliest cortical responses to faces? We review two proposed mechanisms: proto-organization for simple shapes in visual cortex, and an innate subcortical schematic face template. In addition, we propose a third mechanism: infants choose to look at faces to engage in positively valenced, contingent social interactions. Activity in medial prefrontal cortex during social interactions may, directly or indirectly, guide the organization of cortical face areas.