Sensitivity and configuration-specificity of orientation-defined texture processing in infants and adults

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Here we use textures made up of widely spaced Gabor patches to compare infant and adult sensitivity to the global organization of the elements comprising the textures. Visual Evoked Potentials (VEPs) were recorded to alterations between random images and images containing varying proportions of patches that were of the same orientation. The patches were placed on rectangular, hexagonal or random lattices. Texture-specific responses were robust in adults and their VEP threshold was reached when 1–17% of the patches had the same orientation in the structured image. Infant thresholds were approximately 20–60%. While infants are capable of detecting the global structure of our textures, their sensitivity is low. In adults we found, unexpectedly, that sensitivity and response gain were higher for horizontal compared to vertical global orientations. Infant sensitivity was the same for the two orientations. Comparable orientation anisotropies have not been previously reported for gratings, suggesting that the Gabor-defined textures are tapping different mechanisms. There were small, but measurable effects of the lattice type in adults, with the rectangular lattice producing the largest responses.

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