Experience Shapes the Development of Neural Substrates of Face Processing in Human Ventral Temporal Cortex

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In adult humans, the ventral temporal cortex (VTC) represents faces in a reproducible topology. However, it is unknown what role visual experience plays in the development of this topology. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in children and adults, we found a sequential development, in which the topology of face-selective activations across the VTC was matured by age 7, but the spatial extent and degree of face selectivity continued to develop past age 7 into adulthood. Importantly, own- and other-age faces were differentially represented, both in the distributed multivoxel patterns across the VTC, and also in the magnitude of responses of face-selective regions. These results provide strong evidence that experience shapes cortical representations of faces during development from childhood to adulthood. Our findings have important implications for the role of experience and age in shaping the neural substrates of face processing in the human VTC.

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