Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience vol:19 issue:3 pages:543-555
The degree of commonality between the perceptual mechanisms involved in processing faces and objects of expertise is intensely debated. To clarify this issue, we recorded occipito-temporal event-related potentials in response to faces when concurrently processing visual objects of expertise. In car experts fixating pictures of cars, we observed a large decrease of an evoked potential elicited by face stimuli between 130 and 200 msec, the N170. This sensory suppression was much lower when the car and face stimuli were separated by a 200-msec blank interval. With and without this delay, there was a strong correlation between the face-evoked N170 amplitude decrease and the subject's level of car expertise as measured in an independent behavioral task. Together, these results show that neural representations of faces and nonface objects in a domain of expertise compete for visual processes in the occipito-temporal cortex as early as 130-200 msec following stimulus onset.