Royal Society Publishing

Abstract

The direction of eye gaze and orientation of the face towards or away from another are important social signals for man and for macaque monkey. We have studied the effects of these signals in a region of the macaque temporal cortex where cells have been found to be responsive to the sight of faces. Of cells selectively responsive to the sight of the face or head but not to other objects (182 cells) 63% were sensitive to the orientation of the head. Different views of the head (full face, profile, back or top of the head, face rotated by 45 degrees up to the ceiling or down to the floor) maximally activated different classes of cell. All classes of cell, however, remained active as the preferred view was rotated isomorphically or was changed in size or distance. Isomorphic rotation by 90-180 degrees increased cell response latencies by 10-60 ms. Sensitivity to gaze direction was found for 64% of the cells tested that were tuned to head orientation. Eighteen cells most responsive to the full face preferred eye contact, while 18 cells tuned to the profile face preferred averted gaze. Sensitivity to gaze was thus compatible with, but could be independent of, sensitivity to head orientation. Results suggest that the recognition of one type of object may proceed via the independent high level analysis of several restricted views of the object (viewer-centred descriptions).

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