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Child Dev. 2009 Jul-Aug;80(4):1039-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01315.x.

The effects of early experience on face recognition: an event-related potential study of institutionalized children in Romania.

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  • 1Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Room 46-4089, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Data are reported from 3 groups of children residing in Bucharest, Romania. Face recognition in currently institutionalized, previously institutionalized, and never-institutionalized children was assessed at 3 time points: preintervention (n = 121), 30 months of age (n = 99), and 42 months of age (n = 77). Children watched photographs of caregiver and stranger faces while event-related potentials were recorded. Results demonstrate that institutionalized children show pervasive cortical hypoarousal in response to faces and that foster care is somewhat effective in remediating this deficit by 42 months of age. All 3 groups of children distinguished between the familiar and unfamiliar faces. These results have the potential to inform an understanding of the role of early experience in the development of the neural systems that subserve face recognition.

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