Localizing evoked and induced responses to faces using magnetoencephalography



A rich pattern of responses in frequency, time and space are known to be generated in the visual cortex in response to faces. Recently, a number of studies have used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to try to record these responses non-invasively – in many cases using source analysis techniques based on the beamforming method. Here we sought both to characterize best practice for measuring face-specific responses using MEG beamforming, and to determine whether the results produced by the beamformer match evidence from other modalities. We measured activity to visual presentation of face stimuli and phase-scrambled control stimuli, and performed source analyses of both induced and evoked responses using Synthetic Aperture Magnetometry. We localized the gamma-band response to bilateral lateral occipital cortex, and both the gamma-band response and the M170-evoked response to the right fusiform gyrus. Differences in the gamma-band response between faces and scrambled stimuli were confined to the frequency range 50–90 Hz; gamma-band activity at higher frequencies did not differ between the two stimulus categories. We additionally identified a component of the M220-evoked response – localized to the parieto-occipital sulcus – which was enhanced for scrambled vs. unscrambled faces. These findings help to establish that MEG beamforming can localize face-specific responses in time, frequency and space with good accuracy (when validated against established findings from functional magnetic resonance imaging and intracranial recordings), as well as contributing to the establishment of best methodological practice for the use of the beamformer method to measure face-specific responses.