• face inversion;
  • recognition memory;
  • fMRI;
  • visual search;
  • oddity discrimination

The classic view holds that the medial temporal lobes (MTL) are dedicated to declarative memory functioning. Recent evidence, however, suggests that perirhinal cortex (PrC), a structure within the anterior MTL, may also play a role in perceptual discriminations when representations of complex conjunctions of features, or of gestalt-characteristics of objects must be generated. Interestingly, neuroimaging and electrophysiological recordings in nonhuman primates have also revealed a face patch in the anterior collateral sulcus with preferential responses to face stimuli in various task contexts. In the present fMRI study, we investigated the representational demands that influence PrC involvement in different types of judgments on human faces. Holding stimulus complexity constant, we independently manipulated the nature of the task and the orientation of the stimuli presented (through face inversion). Aspects of right PrC showed increased responses in a forced-choice recognition-memory and a perceptual-oddity task, as compared to a feature-search task that was included to probe visual detection of an isolated face feature. Effects of stimulus orientation in right PrC were observed when the recognition-memory condition for upright faces was compared with all other experimental conditions, including recognition-memory for inverted faces-a result that can be related to past work on the role of PrC in object unitization. Notably, both effects in right PrC paralleled activity patterns in broader networks of regions that also included the right fusiform gyrus and the amygdala, regions frequently implicated in face processing in prior research. As such, the current findings do not support the view that reference to a prior study episode clearly distinguishes the role of PrC from that of more posterior ventral visual pathway regions. They add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that the functional role of specific MTL structures may be best understood in terms of the representations that are required by the task and the stimuli at hand. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.