Technical Program

Paper Detail

Paper: PS-1B.45
Session: Poster Session 1B
Location: Symphony/Overture
Session Time: Thursday, September 6, 18:45 - 20:45
Presentation Time:Thursday, September 6, 18:45 - 20:45
Presentation: Poster
Paper Title: Why is the fusiform face area recruited for other domains of expertise?
Manuscript:  Click here to view manuscript
Authors: Garrison Cottrell, UCSD, United States
Abstract: What is the role of the Fusiform Face Area (FFA)? Is it specific to face processing, or is it a visual expertise area? The expertise hypothesis is appealing due to a number of studies showing that the FFA is activated by pictures of objects within the subject's domain of expertise (e.g., cars for car experts, birds for birders, etc.), and that activation of the FFA increases as new expertise is acquired in the lab. However, it is incumbent upon the proponents of the expertise hypothesis to explain how it is that an area that is initially specialized for faces becomes recruited for new classes of stimuli. We dub this the “visual expertise mystery.” This paper summarizes a decade of research on this topic. We show that a neurocomputational model trained to perform subordinate-level discrimination within a visually homogeneous class develops transformations that magnify differences between similar objects, in marked contrast to networks trained to simply categorize the objects. This magnification generalizes to novel classes, leading to faster learning of new discriminations. We suggest this is why the FFA is recruited for new expertise. The model predicts that individual FFA neurons will have highly variable responses to stimuli within expertise domains.