Overt and Covert Attention in Infants Revealed Using Steady-State Visually Evoked Potentials

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Although looking-time methods have long been used to measure infant attention and investigate aspects of cognitive development, steady-state visually evoked potential (SSVEP) measures may be more sensitive or practical in some contexts. Here, we demonstrate habituation of infants’ SSVEP amplitudes to a flickering checkerboard stimulus, and recovery of attention upon presentation of a novel checkerboard stimulus. This modulation of SSVEP amplitude was more robust than the modulation of looking time. In addition, we provide evidence of enhanced SSVEPs in response to covertly attended checkerboards flickering in peripheral visual fields, even while infants are fixating a central stimulus. These experiments provide the first evidence of habituation and recovery of infant SSVEP amplitudes, as well as the first evidence of sustained infant covert attention using SSVEPs. SSVEPs may be a sensitive, efficient measure for use in studying early cognitive development, in particular infants’ overt and covert attention.

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