Visual cortical networks align with behavioral measures of context-sensitivity in early childhood


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Abstract

This study investigates how visual cortical networks align with context-sensitivity, namely the relative focus on the object versus the background of a visual scene, in early childhood. Context-sensitivity was assessed by a picture description and a recognition memory task. To segregate object and background processing in the visual cortex in 5- and 7-year-old children, object and background were presented at different frequencies (12 Hz or 15 Hz), evoking disparate neuronal responses (steady state visually evoked potentials, SSVEPs) in the electroencephalogram. In younger compared to older children the background elicited higher SSVEPs. Visual cortical processing of object versus background was associated with behavioral measures for older but not for younger children. This relation was strongest for verbal descriptions and generalized to the cortical processing of abstract stimuli and object and background presented alone. Thus, visual cortical networks restructure and align with behavioral measures of context-sensitivity in early childhood.HighlightsObject versus background processing in the visual cortex was analyzed using SSVEPs.Cortical processes matched with verbal context-sensitivity measures in 7-year-olds.No correlation between cortical processing and behavioral measures in 5-year-olds.Background versus object SSVEPs were higher in 5-year-olds compared to 7-yearolds.Visual cortical networks restructure and align with language in early childhood.

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