To better understand face recognition, it is necessary to identify not only which brain structures are implicated but also the dynamics of the neuronal activity in these structures. Latencies can then be compared to unravel the temporal dynamics of information processing at the distributed network level. To achieve high spatial and temporal resolution, we used intracerebral recordings in epileptic subjects while they performed a famous/unfamiliar face recognition task. The first components peaked at 110 ms in the fusiform gyrus (FG) and simultaneously in the inferior frontal gyrus, suggesting the early establishment of a large-scale network. This was followed by components peaking at 160 ms in 2 areas along the FG. Important stages of distributed parallel processes ensued at 240 and 360 ms involving up to 6 regions along the ventral visual pathway. The final components peaked at 480 ms in the hippocampus. These stages largely overlapped. Importantly, event-related potentials to famous faces differed from unfamiliar faces and control stimuli in all medial temporal lobe structures. The network was bilateral but more right sided. Thus, recognition of famous faces takes place through the establishment of a complex set of local and distributed processes that interact dynamically and may be an emergent property of these interactions.

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