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At what level of spatial resolution can the human brain recognize a familiar face in a crowd of strangers? Does it depend on whether one approaches or rather moves back from the crowd? To answer these questions, 16 observers viewed different unsegmented images of unfamiliar faces alternating at 6 Hz, with spatial frequency (SF) content progressively increasing (i.e., coarse-to-fine) or decreasing (fine-to-coarse) in different sequences. Variable natural images of celebrity faces every sixth stimulus generated an objective neural index of single-glanced automatic familiar face recognition (FFR) at 1 Hz in participants' electroencephalogram (EEG). For blurry images increasing in spatial resolution, the neural FFR response over occipitotemporal regions emerged abruptly with additional cues at about 6.3-8.7 cycles/head width, immediately reaching amplitude saturation. When the same images progressively decreased in resolution, the FFR response disappeared already below 12 cycles/head width, thus providing no support for a predictive coding hypothesis. Overall, these observations indicate that rapid automatic recognition of heterogenous natural views of familiar faces is achieved from coarser visual inputs than generally thought, and support a coarse-to-fine FFR dynamics in the human brain. © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Xiaoqian Yan, Valérie Goffaux, Bruno Rossion. Coarse-to-Fine(r) Automatic Familiar Face Recognition in the Human Brain. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). 2022 Apr 05;32(8):1560-1573

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PMID: 34505130

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