Functional activation of the infant cortex during object processing.
ABSTRACT A great deal is known about the functional organization of the neural structures that mediate visual object processing in the adult observer. These findings have contributed significantly to our conceptual models of object recognition and identification and provided unique insight into the nature of object representations extracted from visual input. In contrast, little is known about the neural basis of object processing in the infant. The current research used near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) as a neuroimaging tool to investigate functional activation of the infant cortex during an object processing task that has been used extensively with infants. The neuroimaging data revealed that the infant cortex is functionally specialized for object processing (i.e., individuation-by-feature) early in the first year but that patterns of activation also change between 3 and 12 months. These changes may reflect functional reorganization of the immature cortex or age-related differences in the cognitive processes engaged during the task.