Nancy Kanwisher

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Nancy Kanwisher (born 1958 or 1959)[1] is a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. She studies the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying human visual perception and cognition.[2]


Kanwisher investigates object recognition, visual attention, and perceptual awareness, as well as response selection, social cognition and the human understanding of numbers. Her lab has identified several regions of the brain that play specialized roles in the perception of specific categories of visual stimuli such as faces,[3][4] places,[5] and bodies,[6] most notably the fusiform face area.

Kanwisher is a prominent supporter in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience of a strong localizationist thesis, according to which highly specific and high level cognitive processes are localized across subjects to specific areas of the brain. She has defended the existence of a specific cortical region devoted to face processing, a region that she called the FFA (Fusiform Face Area).[7] In normal human subjects, this region of inferior temporal cortex is more active when the subject is viewing, recognizing, categorizing or performing any visual processing related to faces, compared to objects, houses and scrambled images, and neurological patients with lesions in this area have been shown to be unable to recognize faces.[8]


Kanwisher joined the MIT faculty in 1997, and prior to that was a faculty member at UCLA and at Harvard University.[2] She received her Ph.D. in 1986 from MIT.[9]

In 1999, she received the National Academy of Sciences' Troland Research Award.[10] She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005[11] to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.[12]


  1. ^ Sanders, Laura (April 27, 2015). "Brain on display: Nancy Kanwisher goes where few other neuroscientists dare to in public outreach". Science News. Kanwisher, 56 
  2. ^ a b "Nancy Kanwisher". McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Kanwisher, Nancy; McDermott, Josh; Chun, Marvin (1 June 1997). "The Fusiform Face Area: A Module in Human Extrastriate Cortex Specialized for Face Perception" (PDF). Journal of Neuroscience 17 (11): 4302–4311. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Tong, Frank; Nakayama, Ken; Moscovitch, Morris; Weinrib, Oren; Kanwisher, Nancy (2000). "Response Properties of the Human Fusiform Face Area" (PDF). Cognitive Neuropsychology 17 (1/2/3): 257–279. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Epstein, Russell; Kanwisher, Nancy (9 April 1998). "A cortical representation of the local visual environment" (PDF). Nature 392: 598–601. doi:10.1038/33402. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Downing, Paul; Jiang, Yuhong; Shuman, Miles; Kanwisher, Nancy (28 September 2001). "A Cortical Area Selective for Visual Processing of the Human Body" (PDF). Science 293: 2470–2473. doi:10.1126/science.1063414. PMID 11577239. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Kanwisher, Nancy (22 June 2010). "Functional specificity in the human brain: A window into the functional architecture of the mind" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (25): 11163–11170. doi:10.1073/pnas.1005062107. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Kanwisher, Nancy (2003), "The ventral visual object pathway in humans: Evidence from fMRI", in Chalupa, LM; Werner, JS, The Visual Neurosciences 
  9. ^ "Brain Like a Swiss Army Knife: Nancy Kanwisher '80, PhD '86". Slice of MIT. MIT Alumni Association. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Troland Research Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Nancy G. Kanwisher". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "Eight from MIT elected to AAAS". MIT News. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 

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