Faces are multidimensional stimuli that convey information for complex social and emotional functions. Separate neural systems have been implicated in the recognition of facial identity (mainly extrastriate visual cortex) and emotional expression (limbic areas and the superior temporal sulcus). Working-memory (WM) studies with faces have shown different but partly overlapping activation patterns in comparison to spatial WM in parietal and prefrontal areas. However, little is known about the neural representations of the different facial dimensions during WM. In the present study 22 subjects performed a face-identity or face-emotion WM task at different load levels during functional magnetic resonance imaging. We found a fronto-parietal-visual WM-network for both tasks during maintenance, including fusiform gyrus. Limbic areas in the amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus demonstrated a stronger activation for the identity than the emotion condition. One explanation for this finding is that the repetitive presentation of faces with different identities but the same emotional expression during the identity-task is responsible for the stronger increase in BOLD signal in the amygdala. These results raise the question how different emotional expressions are coded in WM. Our findings suggest that emotional expressions are re-coded in an abstract representation that is supported at the neural level by the canonical fronto-parietal WM network.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.11.040, hdl.handle.net/1765/31585
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Röder, C., Mohr, H. M., & Linden, D. (2011). Retention of identity versus expression of emotional faces differs in the recruitment of limbic areas. Neuropsychologia, 49(3), 444–453. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.11.040