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

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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.

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