The adult human brain appears to have specialized and independent neural systems for the visual processing of faces and words: greater selectivity for faces in the right hemisphere (RH) while greater selectivity for words in the left hemisphere (LH). Nevertheless, the nature of functional differences between the hemispheres is still largely unknown. To elucidate the hemispheric specialization for face and word recognition, event-related magnetic fields (ERFs) were recorded in young adults while they passively viewed faces and words presented either in the right visual field or in the left visual field. If the neural correlates of face recognition and word recognition reflect the same lateralization profile, then the lateralization of the magnetic source of the M170 component should follow a similar profile, with a greater M170 response for faces in the RH and a greater M170 response for words in the LH. We observed the expected finding of a larger M170 in the LH for words. Unexpectedly, a larger M170 response in the RH for faces was not found. Thus, the hemispheric organization of face recognition is different from that of word recognition in terms of specificity.
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