The role of horizontal facial structure on the N170 and N250
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Recent studies have shown that horizontal facial structure is important for face identification (Dakin and Watt, 2009; Goffaux and Dakin, 2010). Also, sensitivity to horizontal structure is associated with the size of the face inversion effect (Pachai et al., 2013). However, it is unclear how the N170 and N250, two components of visual event-related potentials ERPs that have been implicated in face perception, are modulated by oriented facial structure in an upright face identification task. Here, we recorded ERPs and behavioural accuracy from adult observers performing a 1-of-6 face identification task in conditions that parametrically manipulated the orientation structure of upright faces. Faces were filtered with ideal orientation filters centred on either 0 (horizontal) or 90 deg (vertical). Filter bandwidth was varied across conditions from ±45 to ±90 deg in steps of ±9 deg. As has been reported previously, response accuracy was significantly higher for faces that contained horizontal structure than vertical structure, and the horizontal-vertical difference was correlated with accuracy for unfiltered faces. In addition, the N170 and N250 were affected by the manipulation of horizontal facial structure. Furthermore, for the N250, but not the N170, the relative sensitivity to horizontal compared to vertical facial structure was significantly correlated with identification accuracy for unfiltered faces. We suggest that in a face identification task, the N250 but not the N170 is modulated by the amount of diagnostic information conveyed by horizontal structure.
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