2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Stimulus presentation pattern
Italian scientists have studied the brain activity of newborn babies in recognizing facial-like shapes. They found that in the process of recognizing faces in newborns, parts of the occipital-temporal part of the brain, which are responsible for recognizing faces in adults, are partially involved. The article was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Facial recognition is very important for the effective life of a person in society: it allows not only to remember and then recognize the faces of pleasant and unpleasant interlocutors, but also to recognize emotions and various non-verbal means of communication. Due to its importance, the ability to recognize faces appears quite early: already newborn babies can recognize some parts of the face.
The neural correlates of face recognition in infants are poorly understood: given that the "adult" visual system of the brain is actively developing in the first three months of life, scientists are interested in what exactly is responsible for face recognition at birth.
Italian scientists, led by Marco Buiatti from the University of Trento, decided to find out: ten newborn babies no older than four days took part in their experiment. The babies were shown geometric shapes (squares) arranged in the shape of a face so that the three shapes corresponded to the eyes and mouth. In addition to the normally oriented “face”, the babies were also shown an inverted and skewed “face”: in the first, the eyes and mouth were reversed, and in the second, three figures were shown out of place. The participants' brain activity while viewing the figures was recorded using electroencephalography. Each image was displayed for 1.25 seconds so that it appeared and became sharper at 0.8 Hertz. Scientists monitored those parts of the brain where the pattern of activity corresponded to the frequency of presentation of the stimulus, that is, it was characterized by growth, peak (at the moment of presentation of the stimulus) and further decline.
When recognizing the correct “faces” (in comparison with inverted and skewed), activity was lateralized in the right hemisphere: mainly in the occipitotemporal and occipito-parietal regions. It is in the occipital-temporal region that the fusiform gyrus is located - a part of the brain, different parts of which are responsible for the perception and recognition of various visual information, including colors and faces.
The authors of the work, therefore, came to the conclusion that the departments that are responsible for recognizing faces in the adult brain are already involved in infancy, and in the first few days of life. At the same time, brain activity did not depend on the age of the infant: it was shown by both one-day-old children and children four days after birth.
Recently, another group of scientists found that newborn babies are also able to highlight individual words in speech. The experiment, however, was carried out after preliminary training, which makes it impossible to conclude that this ability is innate.