Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) reveals abnormal fMRI activity in both the “core” and “extended” face network in congenital prosopagnosia

Davide Rivolta*, Alexandra Woolgar, Romina Palermo, Marina Butko, Laura Schmalzl, Mark A. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to identify faces is mediated by a network of cortical and subcortical brain regions in humans. It is still a matter of debate which regions represent the functional substrate of congenital prosopagnosia (CP), a condition characterized by a lifelong impairment in face recognition, and affecting around 2.5% of the general population. Here, we used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to measure neural responses to faces, objects, bodies, and body-parts in a group of seven CPs and ten healthy control participants. Using multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) of the fMRI data we demonstrate that neural activity within the “core” (i.e., occipital face area and fusiform face area) and “extended” (i.e., anterior temporal cortex) face regions in CPs showed reduced discriminability between faces and objects. Reduced differentiation between faces and objects in CP was also seen in the right parahippocampal cortex. In contrast, discriminability between faces and bodies/body-parts and objects and bodies/body-parts across the ventral visual system was typical in CPs. In addition to MVPA analysis, we also ran traditional mass-univariate analysis, which failed to show any group differences in face and object discriminability. In sum, these findings demonstrate (i) face-object representations impairments in CP which encompass both the “core” and “extended” face regions, and (ii) superior power of MVPA in detecting group differences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number925
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2014


  • Body perception
  • Face perception
  • MVPA
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Object perception
  • Prosopagnosia
  • Unfamiliar face
  • fMRI


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