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Prog Brain Res. 2007;164:187-209.

The early development of visual attention and its implications for social and cognitive development.

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Department of Pediatric and Developmental Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands.


Looking behavior plays a crucial role in the daily life of an infant and forms the basis for cognitive and social development. The infant's visual attentional systems undergo rapid development during the first few months of life. During the last decennia, the study of visual attentional development in infants has received increasing interest. Several reliable measures to investigate the early development of attentional processes have been developed, and currently a number of new methods are giving fresh impetus to the field. Research on overt and covert as well as exogenously and endogenously controlled attention shifts is presented. The development of gaze shifts to peripheral targets, covert attention, and visual scanning behavior is treated. Whereas most attentional mechanisms in very young infants are thought to be mediated mainly by subcortical structures, cortical mechanisms become increasingly more functional throughout the first months. Different accounts of the neurophysiological underpinnings of attentional processes and their developmental changes are discussed. Finally, a number of studies investigating the implications of attentional development for early cognitive and social development are presented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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