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The neural correlates of perceiving human bodies: an ERP study on the body-inversion effect

Stekelenburg, Jeroen J.; Gelder, Beatrice deCA


The present study investigated the neural correlates of perceiving human bodies. Focussing on the N170 as an index of structural encoding, we recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) to images of bodies and faces (either neutral or expressing fear) and objects, while subjects viewed the stimuli presented either upright or inverted. The N170 was enhanced and delayed to inverted bodies and faces, but not to objects. The emotional content of faces affected the left N170, the occipito-parietal P2, and the fronto-central N2, whereas body expressions affected the frontal vertex positive potential (VPP) and a sustained fronto-central negativity (300–500 ms). Our results indicate that, like faces, bodies are processed configurally, and that within each category qualitative differences are observed for emotional as opposed to neutral images.

Psychonomics Laboratory, Tilburg University, P.O. Box 90153, 5000 LE, Tilburg, The Netherlands

Received 3 December 2003; accepted 9 January 2004

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© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.