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Fusiform gyrus

Recommended video: Basal view of the brain [29:12]
Structures seen from a basal view of the brain with the brainstem removed, showing the cut surface of the mesencephalon.

The fusiform gyrus is a large gyrus that spans across the basal surface of the temporal and occipital lobes of the cerebral hemispheres. It consists of the two occipitotemporal gyri, namely the medial occipitotemporal gyrus and lateral occipitotemporal gyrus. These two gyri are separated by a sulcus, called the midfusiform sulcus.

This region of the brain has been implicated in higher processing of visual information, including visual processing and recognition of faces, body, color and words, although the functions of the fusiform gyrus have not been fully defined.

In this article we will outline the primary anatomical features of the fusiform gyrus and discuss its known functions. At the end we will discus the clinically association of the fusiform gyrus in various neurological phenomena, including prosopagnosia, synesthesia and dyslexia.

Key facts about the fusiform gyrus
Definition and location Spindle-shaped gyrus that spans on the basal surfaces of the occipital and temporal lobes
Structure Lateral and medial occipitotemporal gyri, separated by the midfusiform sulcus
Function Higher processing of visual information, memory, multisensory integration and perception, visual recognition of written words
  1. Anatomy
    1. Location and characteristics
    2. Blood supply
  2. Function
    1. Overview
    2. Fusiform face area
    3. Visual word form area
  3. Clinical associations
    1. Prosopagnosia
    2. Synaesthesia
    3. Dyslexia
  4. Sources
+ Show all


Location and characteristics

The fusiform gyrus lies between the parahippocampal gyrus and the lingual gyrus medially, and the inferior temporal gyrus laterally on the basal temporal and occipital cortex. The term fusiform (spindle shaped convolution) reflects the shape of the gyrus, which is wide in the middle, and tapers off at both ends. The fusiform gyrus is composed of the medial occipitotemporal and lateral occipitotemporal gyri, which are separated by the shallow mid-fusiform sulcus

The mid-fusiform sulcus serves as a landmark for an important functional region of the fusiform gyrus believed to play a role in face processing, called the fusiform face area.

The collateral sulcus separates the fusiform gyrus from the parahippocampal gyrus and the occipitotemporal sulcus separates it from the inferior temporal gyrus.  Being the largest gyrus of the ventral temporal lobe, the fusiform gyrus forms part of Brodmann area 37, along with the inferior and medial temporal gyri.

Learn more about the gyri and sulci of the basal part of the brain with our study unit:

Blood supply

The fusiform gyrus is supplied by branches of the posterior cerebral artery, i.e. the occipitotemporal arteries and posterior temporal artery.



In general, the function of the fusiform gyrus entails higher processing of visual information, including the identification and differentiation of objects. In addition to high-level visual processing, the fusiform gyrus is involved in memory, multisensory integration and perception. Several functions have been linked with specific cortical areas of the fusiform gyrus.

Learn more about the anatomy of the nervous system with our beginner-friendly quizzes and labeled digrams.

While the exact functional significance of the fusiform gyrus remains unclear, it has been implicated in the following neurologic systems related to processing and recognition of visual information:

  • Color processing
  • Face recognition
  • Body recognition
  • Word recognition
  • Identification of features within each category

The fusiform gyrus appears to have a tight functional relationship with the angular gyrus.  The angular gyrus is involved in the higher processing of colors. The fusiform gyrus communicates with the visual pathway and angular gyrus, allowing the association of colors and shapes.  

Fusiform face area

The fusiform face area (FFA) lies on the lateral surface of the middle of the fusiform gyrus. It’s name reflects that it plays a critical role in the identification of faces, including recognition of one’s own face. This region is not the only area which facilitates face identification. Although the FFA is an important component, a network of face-recognizing regions of the cortex are required, including adjacent areas of the occipital lobe.

In addition to recognizing faces, the fusiform gyrus is also involved in the perception of emotions in facial stimuli. Close to the FFA is a body recognition region, which is important for recognizing the form of the human body.

Visual word form area

Another region of the fusiform gyrus is identified as the visual word form area (VWFA). This is located on the dominant hemisphere (left side), and contributes to the recognition of written (visual) words, which enables reading.

The fusiform also appears to be involved in within-category identification of other stimuli (e.g. the ability to discriminate a rose from other types of flowers).

Fusiform gyrus: want to learn more about it?

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