Curr Biol. 2007 Sep 18; 17(18): 1568-73.
Extensive research has demonstrated that several specialized cortical regions respond preferentially to faces. One such region, located in the inferior occipital gyrus, has been dubbed the occipital face area (OFA). The OFA is the first stage in two influential face-processing models, both of which suggest that it constructs an initial representation of a face, but how and when it does so remains unclear. The present study revealed that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) targeted at the right OFA (rOFA) disrupted accurate discrimination of face parts but had no effect on the discrimination of spacing between these parts. rTMS to left OFA had no effect. A matched part and spacing discrimination task that used house stimuli showed no impairment. In a second experiment, rTMS to rOFA replicated the face-part impairment but did not produce the same effect in an adjacent area, the lateral occipital cortex. A third experiment delivered double pulses of TMS separated by 40 ms at six periods after stimulus presentation during face-part discrimination. Accuracy dropped when pulses were delivered at 60 and 100 ms only. These findings indicate that the rOFA processes face-part information at an early stage in the face-processing stream.