Cortical Thickness in Fusiform Face Area Predicts Face and Object Recognition Performance

The fusiform face area (FFA) is defined by its selectivity for faces. Several studies have shown that the response of FFA to nonface objects can predict behavioral performance for these objects. However, one possible account is that experts pay more attention to objects in their domain of expertise, driving signals up. Here, we show an effect of expertise with nonface objects in FFA that cannot be explained by differential attention to objects of expertise. We explore the relationship between cortical thickness of FFA and face and object recognition using the Cambridge Face Memory Test and Vanderbilt Expertise Test, respectively. We measured cortical thickness in functionally defined regions in a group of men who evidenced functional expertise effects for cars in FFA. Performance with faces and objects together accounted for approximately 40% of the variance in cortical thickness of several FFA patches. Whereas participants with a thicker FFA cortex performed better with vehicles, those with a thinner FFA cortex performed better with faces and living objects. The results point to a domain-general role of FFA in object perception and reveal an interesting double dissociation that does not contrast faces and objects but rather living and nonliving objects.