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Early Visually Evoked Electrophysiological Responses Over the Human Brain (P1, N170) Show Stable Patterns of Face-Sensitivity from 4 years to Adulthood.

Early Visually Evoked Electrophysiological Responses Over the Human Brain (P1, N170) Show Stable Patterns of Face-Sensitivity from 4 years to Adulthood.

Authors: 
Kuefner D., De Heering A., Jacques C., Palmero-Soler E. & Rossion B.
Year: 
2010
Journal: 
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Abstract: 

Whether the development of face recognition abilities truly reflects changes in how faces, specifically, are perceived, or rather can be attributed to more general perceptual or cognitive development, is debated. Event-related potential (ERP) recordings on the scalp offer promise for this issue because they allow brain responses to complex visual stimuli to be relatively well isolated from other sensory, cognitive and motor processes. ERP studies in 5- to 16-year-old children report large age-related changes in amplitude, latency (decreases) and topographical distribution of the early visual components, the P1 and the occipito-temporal N170. To test the face specificity of these effects, we recorded high-density ERPs to pictures of faces, cars, and their phase-scrambled versions from 72 children between the ages of 4 and 17, and a group of adults. We found that none of the previously reported age-dependent changes in amplitude, latency or topography of the P1 or N170 were specific to faces. Most importantly, when we controlled for age-related variations of the P1, the N170 appeared remarkably similar in amplitude and topography across development, with much smaller age-related decreases in latencies than previously reported. At all ages the N170 showed equivalent face-sensitivity: it had the same topography and right hemisphere dominance, it was absent for meaningless (scrambled) stimuli, and larger and earlier for faces than cars. The data also illustrate the large amount of inter-individual and inter-trial variance in young children's data, which causes the N170 to merge with a later component, the N250, in grand-averaged data. Based on our observations, we suggest that the previously reported "bi-fid" N170 of young children is in fact the N250. Overall, our data indicate that the electrophysiological markers of face-sensitive perceptual processes are present from 4 years of age and do not appear to change throughout development.

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