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Brain Topogr. 2015 Sep;28(5):691-701. doi: 10.1007/s10548-014-0414-2. Epub 2014 Nov 4.

Selective Medial Prefrontal Cortex Responses During Live Mutual Gaze Interactions in Human Infants: An fNIRS Study.

Author information

1
Department of Neurophysiotherapy, Graduate School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toyama, Sugitani 2630, Toyama, 930-0194, Japan.
2
Department of System Emotional Science, Graduate School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toyama, Sugitani 2630, Toyama, 930-0194, Japan.
3
Research & Development Medical Systems Division, Shimadzu Corporation, Nishinokyoukuwabaracho 1, Nakagyouku, Kyoto, Japan.
4
Department of System Emotional Science, Graduate School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toyama, Sugitani 2630, Toyama, 930-0194, Japan. nishijo@med.u-toyama.ac.jp.

Abstract

To investigate the role of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in processing multimodal communicative ostensive signals in infants, we measured cerebral hemodynamic responses by using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) during the social interactive play "peek-a-boo", in which both visual (direct gaze) and auditory (infant-directed speech) stimuli were presented. The infants (mean age, around 7 months) sat on their mother's lap, equipped with an NIRS head cap, and looked at a partner's face during "peek-a-boo". An eye-tracking system simultaneously monitored the infants' visual fixation patterns. The results indicate that, when the partner presented a direct gaze, rather than an averted gaze, toward an infant during social play, the infant fixated on the partner's eye region for a longer duration. Furthermore, hemodynamic activity increased more prominently dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in response to social play with a partner's direct gaze compared to an averted gaze. In contrast, hemodynamic activity increased in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (R-lPFC) regardless of a partner's eye gaze direction. These results indicate that a partner's direct gaze shifts an infant's attention to the partner's eyes for interactive communication, and specifically activates the mPFC. The differences in hemodynamic responses between the mPFC and R-lPFC suggest functional differentiation within the PFC, and a specific role of the mPFC in the perception of face-to-face communication, especially in mutual gaze, which is essential for social interaction.

PMID:
25367848
DOI:
10.1007/s10548-014-0414-2
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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