Social perception drives eye-movement related brain activity: Evidence from pro-and anti-saccades to faces


  • Salvia Emilie
  • Harvey M.
  • Nazarian B.
  • Grosbras Marie-Hélène

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Social stimuli such as faces attract and retain attention to a greater extent than other objects. Using fMRI, we investigated how the activity of oculomotor and visual brain regions is modulated when participants look towards or away from visual stimuli belonging to different categories (faces and cars). We identified a region within the superior frontal sulcus showing greater difference between anti-and pro-saccades to faces than to cars, and thereby supporting inhibitory control in a social context. In contrast, ventral occipito-temporal regions and the amygdala, which are associated with face perception, showed higher activity for pro-saccades than anti-saccades for faces, but the reverse for cars, suggesting that contextual, top-down mechanisms modulate the functional specialisation of areas involved in perception. In addition, during saccades in the presence of faces, we found increased functional connectivity between the frontal eye-fields and other cortical and subcortical ocu-lomotor structures, namely the inferior frontal eye field, the posterior parietal cortex and the basal ganglia, possibly reflecting the higher demand put on the oculomotor system to inhibit responses to socially salient stimuli. For the first time, these data highlight neural bases for the different orienting responses towards or away from faces as compared to other objects.

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