Age-related differences in brain electrical activity during extended continuous face recognition in younger children, older children and adults

Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Developmental Science (Impact Factor: 3.89). 09/2011; 14(5):1107-18. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01057.x
Source: PubMed


To examine the development of recognition memory in primary-school children, 36 healthy younger children (8-9 years old) and 36 healthy older children (11-12 years old) participated in an ERP study with an extended continuous face recognition task (Study 1). Each face of a series of 30 faces was shown randomly six times interspersed with distracter faces. The children were required to make old vs. new decisions. Older children responded faster than younger children, but younger children exhibited a steeper decrease in latencies across the five repetitions. Older children exhibited better accuracy for new faces, but there were no age differences in recognition accuracy for repeated faces. For the N2, N400 and late positive complex (LPC), we analyzed the old/new effects (repetition 1 vs. new presentation) and the extended repetition effects (repetitions 1 through 5). Compared to older children, younger children exhibited larger frontocentral N2 and N400 old/new effects. For extended face repetitions, negativity of the N2 and N400 decreased in a linear fashion in both age groups. For the LPC, an ERP component thought to reflect recollection, no significant old/new or extended repetition effects were found. Employing the same face recognition paradigm in 20 adults (Study 2), we found a significant N400 old/new effect at lateral frontal sites and a significant LPC repetition effect at parietal sites, with LPC amplitudes increasing linearly with the number of repetitions. This study clearly demonstrates differential developmental courses for the N400 and LPC pertaining to recognition memory for faces. It is concluded that face recognition in children is mediated by early and probably more automatic than conscious recognition processes. In adults, the LPC extended repetition effect indicates that adult face recognition memory is related to a conscious and graded recollection process rather than to an automatic recognition process.

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