DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhad262 ISSN: 1047-3211

A “Bandwidth” in cortical representations of multiple faces

Hailin Ai, Yuwei Cui, Nihong Chen
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


The human ability to process multiple items simultaneously can be constrained by the extent to which those items are represented by distinct neural populations. In the current study, we used fMRI to investigate the cortical representation of multiple faces. We found that the addition of a second face to occupy both visual hemifields led to an increased response, whereas a further addition of faces within the same visual hemifield resulted in a decreased response. This pattern was widely observed in the occipital visual cortex, the intraparietal sulcus, and extended to the posterior inferotemporal cortex. A parallel trend was found in a behavioral change-detection task, revealing a perceptual “bandwidth” of multiface processing. The sensitivity to face clutter gradually decreased along the ventral pathway, supporting the notion of a buildup of clutter-tolerance representation. These cortical response patterns to face clutters suggest that adding signals with nonoverlapping cortical representation enhanced perception, while adding signals that competed for representation resources impaired perception.

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