NIH Research Festival
Research on the neural correlates of recognizing familiar faces in infancy has usually focused on localized responses at individual cortical surface sites. However, adult studies reveal that facial recognition involves the coordination of activity among networks of cell assemblies. To investigate functional connectivity and its development in early infancy, we examined EEG coherence between spatially separate scalp recording sites in infants 3 and 6 months of age. Photographs were taken of infants’ mothers and were paired for presentation with a female stranger matched on hair, skin, and eye color and on presence/absence of glasses. The stimulus images were analyzed to ensure that low-level perceptual factors, such as light intensity and spatial frequency content, did not differ between conditions. Sites selected for analysis were occipitotemporal to frontal connections at left, midline, and right locations. Connectivity was estimated with a phase coupling factor analyzed in the time and frequency domains I bands of 2-5 Hz (theta), 6-9 Hz (alpha), and 10-13 Hz (beta). Findings revealed that network coherence in the infant brain differentiates between familiar and unfamiliar faces, but that differentiation develops between 3 and 6 months of age. Additionally, coherence responses differ between frequency bands and locations of recording sites as well as between ages. These findings lend new insight into the early development of face processing networks in the human brain.
Scientific Focus Area: Social and Behavioral Sciences
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