Single trial ERP amplitudes reveal the time course of acquiring representations of novel faces in individual participants

12/01/2020 ∙ by W. Sommer, et al. ∙ 0

The neural correlates of face individuation - the acquisition of memory representations for novel faces - have been studied only in coarse detail and disregarding individual differences between learners. In their seminal study, (Tanaka, Curran, Porterfield, Collins, 2006) required the identification of a particular novel face across 70 trials and found that the N250 component in the ERP became more negative from the first to the second half of the experiment, where it reached a similar amplitude as a well-known face. We were unable to directly replicate this finding in our study when we used the original split of trials. However, when we applied a different split of trials we observed very similar changes in N250 amplitude. Then, we developed and applied a new two-step explorative-confirmative non-parametric method based on permutation testing to determine the time course of face individuation in individual participants based on single-trial N250 amplitudes. We show that the assumption of a steep initial increase of N250 amplitude across multiple presentations of the target face, followed by a plateau, yields plausible results in fitting linear trends for most participants. The transition point from initial acquisition to the plateau phase differed strongly between participants and tended to be earlier when performance in target face recognition was better. Hence, face individuation may be accounted for by a biphasic process of early, fast acquisition, followed by a slower, asymptotic consolidation or maintenance phase. The current approach might be fruitfully applied to further investigations into face individuation and their neural correlates

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