A cortical route for face-like pattern processing in human newborns [article]

Marco Buiatti, Elisa Di Giorgio, Manuela Piazza, Carlo Polloni, Giuseppe Menna, Fabrizio Taddei, Ermanno Baldo, Giorgio Vallortigara
2018 biorxiv/medrxiv   pre-print
Humans are endowed with an exceptional ability for detecting faces, a competence that in adults is supported by a set of face-specific cortical patches. Human newborns already shortly after birth preferentially orient to faces even when they are presented in the form of highly schematic geometrical patterns, over perceptually equivalent non-face like stimuli. The neural substrates underlying this early preference are still largely unexplored. Is the adult face specific cortical circuit already
more » ... al circuit already active at birth, or does its specialization develop slowly as a function of experience and/or maturation? We measured EEG responses in 1-4 days old awake, attentive human newborns to schematic face-like patterns and non-face-like control stimuli, visually presented with a slow oscillatory "peekaboo" dynamics (0.8 Hz) in a frequency-tagging design. Despite the limited duration of newborns' attention, reliable frequency-tagged responses could be estimated for each stimulus from the peak of the EEG power spectrum at the stimulation frequency. Upright face-like stimuli elicited a significantly stronger frequency-tagged response than inverted face-like controls in a large set of electrodes. Source reconstruction of the underlying cortical activity revealed the recruitment of a partially right-lateralized network comprising lateral occipito-temporal and medial parietal areas largely overlapping with the adult face-processing circuit. This result suggests that the cortical route specialized in face processing is already functional at birth.
doi:10.1101/414284 fatcat:ooveo2rtvfhrzkptvpoddrbdx4