Neuropsychological evidence suggests that the recognition of facial identity is mediated by a distributed neural system. Damage to the temporal versus frontal lobe components of this face memory network produces qualitatively different types of recognition impairments. Specifically, whereas temporal lobe lesions result in clinical syndromes characterized by memory loss for familiar faces (prosopagnosia, person recognition disorders), frontal lobe lesions give rise to memory distortions involving false recognition/misidentification of unfamiliar faces. To account for these observations, we propose that dynamic functional interactions between temporal lobe memory and frontal executive systems normally play a critical role in maintaining face recognition accuracy by modulating the relationship between two complementary cognitive operations that involve processing faces at different levels of specificity: individuation and categorization.
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