Distributed representations of dynamic facial expressions in the superior temporal sulcus

Christopher P. Said, Christopher D. Moore, Andrew D. Engell, Alexander Todorov, James V. Haxby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Previous research on the superior temporal sulcus (STS) has shown that it responds more to facial expressions than to neutral faces. Here, we extend our understanding of the STS in two ways. First, using targeted high-resolution fMRI measurements of the lateral cortex and multivoxel pattern analysis, we show that the response to seven categories of dynamic facial expressions can be decoded in both the posterior STS (pSTS) and anterior STS (aSTS). We were also able to decode patterns corresponding to these expressions in the frontal operculum (FO), a structure that has also been shown to respond to facial expressions. Second, we measured the similarity structure of these representations and found that the similarity structure in the pSTS significantly correlated with the perceptual similarity structure of the expressions. This was the case regardless of whether we used pattern classification or more traditional correlation techniques to extract the neural similarity structure. These results suggest that distributed representations in the pSTS could underlie the perception of facial expressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


  • Faces
  • Facial expressions
  • Frontal operculum
  • Multivoxel pattern analysis
  • Superior temporal sulcus
  • fMRI


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