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Theta- and Gamma-Band Activity Discriminates Face, Body and Object Perception

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Francesco Bossi, Isabella Premoli, Sara Pizzamiglio, Sema Balaban, Paola Ricciardelli, Davide Rivolta

Original languageEnglish
Article number74
JournalFrontiers In Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2020

King's Authors


Face and body perception is mediated by configural mechanisms, which allow the perception of these stimuli as a whole, rather than the sum of individual parts. Indirect measures of configural processing in visual cognition are the face and body inversion effects (FIE and BIE), which refer to the drop in performance when these stimuli are perceived upside-down. Albeit FIE and BIE have been well characterized at the behavioral level, much still needs to be understood in terms of the neurophysiological correlates of these effects. Thus, in the current study, the brain’s electrical activity has been recorded by a 128 channel electroencephalogram (EEG) in 24 healthy participants while perceiving (upright and inverted) faces, bodies and houses. EEG data were analyzed in both the time domain (i.e., event-related potentials—ERPs) and the frequency domain [i.e., induced theta (5–7 Hz) and gamma (28–45 Hz) oscillations]. ERPs amplitude results showed increased N170 amplitude for inverted faces and bodies (compared to the same stimuli presented in canonical position) but not for houses. ERPs latency results showed delayed N170 components for inverted (vs. upright) faces, houses, but not bodies. Spectral analysis of induced oscillations indicated physiological FIE and BIE; that is decreased gamma-band synchronization over right occipito-temporal electrodes for inverted (vs. upright) faces, and increased bilateral frontoparietal theta-band synchronization for inverted (vs. upright) faces. Furthermore, increased left occipito-temporal and right frontal theta-band synchronization for upright (vs. inverted) bodies was found. Our findings, thus, demonstrate clear differences in the neurophysiological correlates of face and body perception. The neurophysiological FIE suggests disruption of feature binding processes (decrease in occipital gamma oscillations for inverted faces), together with enhanced feature-based attention (increase in frontoparietal theta oscillations for inverted faces). In contrast, the BIE may suggest that structural encoding for bodies is mediated by the first stages of configural processing (decrease in occipital theta oscillations for inverted bodies).

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