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Jun 12
15:00 - 16:00
A robust neural index of face familiarity
Centre for Cogntive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems (CCNCS) Seminars
Dr Holger Wiese, Department of Psychology, Durham University

Humans are remarkably accurate at recognising familiar faces from a wide range of images, including pictures they have never seen before. In contrast, their ability to recognise (or match) unfamiliar faces is much poorer. Although previous research has identified several neural correlates of face processing in general, it has largely failed to identify neural correlates of the striking differences between familiar and unfamiliar face recognition so clearly evident in behavioural paradigms. 

In a series of experiments, we show that multiple ambient images of personally highly familiar faces elicit more negative event-related brain potentials than unfamiliar faces. This effect starts 200 ms after stimulus onset and reaches its maximum between 400 and 600 ms. While the scalp distribution of this Sustained Familiarity Effect points to a generator in the ventral visual pathway, modulation by image repetition and degree of familiarity suggests an integration of affective and visual information as the underlying mechanism. 

The Sustained Familiarity Effect is substantially larger than any comparable finding and detected in 84% of participants. It thus represents a highly reliable and objective marker of personal familiarity, reflecting the ease and accuracy of human face recognition.


Keynes College,
University of Kent,
United Kingdom


Open to all University staff and postgraduate students.,

Contact: Dr Markus Bindemann
School of Psychology


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Last Updated: 10/01/2012