Who is who: Areas of the brain associated with recognizing and naming famous faces - Clinical article

Carlo Giussani, Franck Emmanuel Roux, Lorenzo Bello, Valérie Lauwers-Cances, Costanza Papagno, Sergio M. Gaini, Michelle Puel, Jean François Démonet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Object. It has been hypothesized that specific brain regions involved in face naming may exist in the brain. To spare these areas and to gain a better understanding of their organization, the authors studied patients who underwent surgery by using direct electrical stimulation mapping for brain tumors, and they compared an object-naming task to a famous face-naming task. Methods. Fifty-six patients with brain tumors (39 and 17 in the left and right hemispheres, respectively) and with no significant preoperative overall language deficit were prospectively studied over a 2-year period. Four patients who had a partially selective famous face anomia and 2 with prosopagnosia were not included in the final analysis. Results. Face-naming interferences were exclusively localized in small cortical areas (<1 cm 2). Among 35 patients whose dominant left hemisphere was studied, 26 face-naming specific areas (that is, sites of interference in face naming only and not in object naming) were found. These face naming-specific sites were significantly detected in 2 regions: in the left frontal areas of the superior, middle, and inferior frontal gyri (p <0.001) and in the anterior part of the superior and middle temporal gyri (p <0.01). Variable patterns of interference were observed (speech arrest, anomia, phonemic, or semantic paraphasia) probably related to the different stages in famous face processing. Only 4 famous face-naming interferences were found in the right hemisphere. Conclusions. Relative anatomical segregation of naming categories within language areas was detected. This study showed that famous face naming was preferentially processed in the left frontal and anterior temporal gyri. The authors think it is necessary to adapt naming tasks in neurosurgical patients to the brain region studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Brain mapping
  • Cortical stimulation
  • Face naming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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