Drawing cartoon faces - a functional imaging study of the cognitive neuroscience of drawing

Rowland Miall, Emma Gowen, J Tchalenko

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36 Citations (Scopus)
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We report a functional imaging study of drawing cartoon faces. Normal, untrained participants were scanned while viewing simple black and white cartoon line-drawings of human faces, retaining them for a short memory interval, and then drawing them without vision of their hand or the paper. Specific encoding and retention of information about the faces was tested for by contrasting these two stages (with display of cartoon faces) against the exploration and retention of random dot stimuli. Drawing was contrasted between conditions in which only memory of a previously viewed face was available versus a condition in which both memory and simultaneous viewing of the cartoon was possible, and versus drawing of a new, previously unseen, face. We show that the encoding of cartoon faces powerfully activates the face sensitive areas of the lateral occipital cortex and the fusiform gyrus, but there is no significant activation in these areas during the retention interval. Activity in both areas was also high when drawing the displayed cartoons. Drawing from memory activates areas in posterior parietal cortex and frontal areas. This activity is consistent with the encoding and retention of the spatial information about the face to be drawn as a visuo-motor action plan, either representing a series of targets for ocular fixation or as spatial targets for the drawing action.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2008


  • Visuo-motor control
  • Face processing
  • Spatial processing
  • Functional imaging
  • Spatial memory


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