Neurophysiological correlates of featural and spacing processing for face and non-face stimuli

Marcello Negrini, Diandra Brkić, Sara Pizzamiglio, Isabella Premoli, Davide Rivolta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The peculiar ability of humans to recognize hundreds of faces at a glance has been attributed to face-specific perceptual mechanisms known as holistic processing. Holistic processing includes the ability to discriminate individual facial features (i.e., featural processing) and their spatial relationships (i.e., spacing processing). Here, we aimed to characterize the spatio-temporal dynamics of featural- and spacing-processing of faces and objects. Nineteen healthy volunteers completed a newly created perceptual discrimination task for faces and objects (i.e., the "University of East London Face Task") while their brain activity was recorded with a high-density (128 electrodes) electroencephalogram. Our results showed that early event related potentials at around 100 ms post-stimulus onset (i.e., P100) are sensitive to both facial features and spacing between the features. Spacing and features discriminability for objects occurred at circa 200 ms post-stimulus onset (P200). These findings indicate the existence of neurophysiological correlates of spacing vs. features processing in both face and objects, and demonstrate faster brain processing for faces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number333
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Negrini, Brkić, Pizzamiglio, Premoli and Rivolta. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • configural processing
  • EEG
  • face perception
  • holistic processing
  • N170
  • object perception
  • P100


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