The developmental time course and topographic distribution of individual-level monkey face discrimination in the infant brain

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The ability to discriminate between faces from unfamiliar face groups has previously been found to decrease across the first year of life. Here, individual-level discrimination of faces within a previously unfamiliar group was investigated by measuring neural responses to monkey faces. Six- and 9-month-old infants (n = 42) completed a Fast Periodic Visual Stimulation (FPVS) task while steady state visual evoked potentials (ssVEPs) were recorded. Using an oddball task design (e.g., infrequent changes in face identity) faces were presented at a 6 Hz (1 face approximately every 167 ms) stimulation rate and every 1.2 Hz different individual monkey faces were presented. Significant SNRs at 1.2 Hz in both 6- and 9-month-old infants suggest that neural responses, recorded over posterior scalp regions, remain sensitive to individual-level differences within an unfamiliar face group despite previous behavioral evidence of decreased discrimination. However, the topographic distribution of the 1.2 Hz response varied by age, suggesting that 6- and 9-month-old infants are using different neural populations to discriminate unfamiliar faces at the individual level.HIGHLIGHTSSix- and 9-month-olds show neural evidence of discrimination of monkey faces.The topographic distribution of neural responses differed by age.Six- and 9-month-olds may use different neural systems for face discrimination.

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