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Title: TMS studies of the occipital face area
Author: Pitcher, D. J.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2009
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Considerable evidence suggests that the visual system processes faces differently from other objects. Neuroimaging techniques have been utilized to identify face selective cortical areas such as the fusiform face area (FFA), the superior temporal sulcus (STS), and the occipital face area (OFA) and to further link these areas together in a specialised and distributed cortical face network. Of these three areas the OFA is the least studied and the least understood. To better understand the neural operations of the OFA and its role in the larger face network I have used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt normal functioning in the area. This approach to study the role of OFA first required demonstration that the area was capable of being targeted with TMS and furthermore that any induced disruption was face- selective. Having established this I further demonstrated the spatial and temporal precision with which TMS is capable of disrupting the OFA. In a second series of TMS experiments the role of the OFA in the discrimination of facial expressions was demonstrated. This finding was further enhanced by demonstrating that another functionally distinct cortical area, the right somatosensory cortex, is also involved in facial expression discrimination. In the final series of experiments I further demonstrated the face selectivity of the OFA by targeting the area with TMS during discrimination tasks involving faces, objects and human bodies. TMS was shown to impair face processing only when targeting the OFA. In conclusion my PhD has demonstrated the importance of the OFA in the processing of both face parts and facial expressions and has furthermore suggested at what stage of the face processing stream this occurs.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available