The N170 observed ‘in the wild’: robust event-related potentials to faces in cluttered dynamic visual scenes

Johnston, Patrick, Molyneux, Rebecca, & Young, Andrew W. (2015) The N170 observed ‘in the wild’: robust event-related potentials to faces in cluttered dynamic visual scenes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(7), pp. 938-944.

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As a social species in a constantly changing environment, humans rely heavily on the informational richness and communicative capacity of the face. Thus, understanding how the brain processes information about faces in real-time is of paramount importance. The N170 is a high temporal resolution electrophysiological index of the brain's early response to visual stimuli that is reliably elicited in carefully controlled laboratory-based studies. Although the N170 has often been reported to be of greatest amplitude to faces, there has been debate regarding whether this effect might be an artifact of certain aspects of the controlled experimental stimulation schedules and materials. To investigate whether the N170 can be identified in more realistic conditions with highly variable and cluttered visual images and accompanying auditory stimuli we recorded EEG 'in the wild', while participants watched pop videos. Scene-cuts to faces generated a clear N170 response, and this was larger than the N170 to transitions where the videos cut to non-face stimuli. Within participants, wild-type face N170 amplitudes were moderately correlated to those observed in a typical laboratory experiment. Thus, we demonstrate that the face N170 is a robust and ecologically valid phenomenon and not an artifact arising as an unintended consequence of some property of the more typical laboratory paradigm.

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ID Code: 78410
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsu136
ISSN: 1749-5024
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Sensory Processes Perception and Performance (170112)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Deposited On: 12 Nov 2014 22:21
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2015 00:39

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