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Visual cognition and brain development: memory and learning in human infancy

Objective

To investigate aspects of the acquisition of knowledge by human infants:
To determine the extent to which cortical specialisation is sensitive to interactions with the environment early in life,
To determine the perceptual and neural mechanisms involved in the visual attention to face in neonates, the emerging specialisation of cortical circuits for recognising individual faces, and the development of long term pre-episodic memory and categorisation of faces.

A clearer understanding of learning and memory abilities is critical for education, remediation and medical science. Two aspects of the acquisition of knowledge by human infants will be investigated: the emerging specialisation of cortical circuits for recognising individual faces, and the development of long term memory abilities. In studying face recognition which plays a crucial role in visual social and cognitive skills, the three labs will address the more general question of the extent to which cortical specialisation is sensitive to interactions with the environment early in life. Three kinds of information on the development of face processing and memory will be integrated: normal brain development through non-invasive brain imagery (HD-ERP), normal and abnormal behavioral cognitive changes and brain plasticity through the study of normal infant, of infants with genetic abnormalities and of children with neonatal focal brain damage.
By using HD-ERPs the participants will evaluate the degree of maturation of the cortical response and compare the localisation of the generators to those observed in older children and in adults. By comparing the neurocognitive mechanisms of face vs. non-face objects recognition and learning in normal infants and children, in children with acquired brain damage (neonatal focal unilateral brain damage) and in different abnormal phenotypes (Williams and Down syndromes), the participants will dissociate several mechanisms contributing to face learning into optional or necessary mechanisms. Moreover, detecting deviation from normal face learning abilities sufficiently early in infancy may allow the development of remediative strategies which enhance the appropriate specialisation of cortical circuits for face processing. By exchanging their expertise, the three laboratories will in particular develop the recent non-invasive brain imaging methodology (HD-ERP). Through their close collaboration they will increase the sample size of children with the rare genetic disorders and with neonatal focal brain damage. By adopting a neuropsychological approach of cognitive development the participants hope to contribute to the understanding of the origin of human mind and to a clearer understanding of infants and children suffering from major cognitive developmental risk.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE
Address
Chemin Joseph Aiguier 31
13402 Marseille
France

Participants (2)

Medical Research Council
United Kingdom
Address
Taviton Street
WC1H 0BT London
Universitá degli Studi di Padova
Italy
Address
8,Via Plaza Venezia
35137 Padova