Golarai G, 2010, "Behavioral and fMRI evidence for a prolonged development of face recognition in children" Perception 39 ECVP Abstract Supplement, page 10
Behavioral and fMRI evidence for a prolonged development of face recognition in children
Crucial for social interaction and communication, face processing begins in early infancy. However, decades of behavioral studies suggest a prolonged development of face recognition that continues well into adolescence. What are the neural mechanisms of face recognition development during childhood? Is this prolonged development specific to faces, or is it a byproduct of age related improvements in general cognitive and behavioral competence? Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) along with behavioral studies, my research suggests that the face selective region in the fusiform gyrus (fusiform face area, FFA) undergoes a prolonged development after age 7 that continues well into adolescence. This development manifested as an increase in the volume of the FFA and its response amplitude and selectivity for faces, as well as increased differentiation of the distributed patterns of response to faces versus non-face stimuli in the ventral temporal cortex (VTC), regardless of the age of the face stimuli. Moreover, increased FFA volume was associated with improvements in recognition memory performance for faces, but not for objects or places. These findings suggest a specific and prolonged development of face-selectivity across the VTC during childhood and adolescence that may underlie the prolonged development of face recognition proficiency during childhood development. I will discuss the implications of these findings vis-á-vis the role of experience dependent neurophysiological mechanisms, and atypical development in neurogenetic conditions such as Williams syndrome.
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