Regional brain response to faces of humans and dogs

Lee X. Blonder, Charles D. Smith, C. Ervin Davis, Marilyn L. Kesler West, Thomas F. Garrity, Malcolm J. Avison, Anders H. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The extent to which the brain regions associated with face processing are selective for that specific function remains controversial. In addition, little is known regarding the extent to which face-responsive brain regions are selective for human faces. To study regional selectivity of face processing, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine whole brain activation in response to human faces, dog faces, and houses. Fourteen healthy right-handed volunteers participated in a passive viewing, blocked experiment. Results indicate that the lateral fusiform gyrus (Brodmann's area 37) responds maximally to both dog and human faces when compared with other sites, followed by the middle/inferior occipital gyrus (BA 18/19). Sites that were activated by houses versus dog and human faces included the medial fusiform gyrus (BA 19/37), the posterior cingulate (BA 30), and the superior occipital gyrus (BA 19). The only site that displayed significant differences in activation between dog and human faces was the lingual/medial fusiform gyrus. In this site, houses elicited the strongest activation, followed by dog faces, while the response to human faces was negligible and did not differ from fixation. The parahippocampal gyrus/amygdala was the sole site that displayed significant activation to human faces, but not to dog faces or houses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-394
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
These studies were supported by NSF grant IBN-9604231 and the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Kentucky. We thank Robin Avison, Agnes Bognar, Jennifer Harper, Jane Meara, Eva Nyerges, and Sherry Williams for their technical assistance.


  • Emotional processing
  • Face perception
  • Facial expressions
  • Functional imaging
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Fusiform gyrus
  • Object recognition
  • Sensory systems
  • Visual cortex: extrastriate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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