Development of Tool Representations in the Dorsal and Ventral Visual Object Processing Pathways

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Tools represent a special class of objects, because they are processed across both the dorsal and ventral visual object processing pathways. Three core regions are known to be involved in tool processing: the left posterior middle temporal gyrus, the medial fusiform gyrus (bilaterally), and the left inferior parietal lobule. A critical and relatively unexplored issue concerns whether, in development, tool preferences emerge at the same time and to a similar degree across all regions of the tool-processing network. To test this issue, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the neural amplitude, peak location, and the dispersion of tool-related neural responses in the youngest sample of children tested to date in this domain (ages 4–8 years). We show that children recruit overlapping regions of the adult tool-processing network and also exhibit similar patterns of co-activation across the network to adults. The amplitude and co-activation data show that the core components of the tool-processing network are established by age 4. Our findings on the distributions of peak location and dispersion of activation indicate that the tool network undergoes refinement between ages 4 and 8 years.

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