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Nat Commun. 2017 Jan 10;8:13995. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13995.

Organization of high-level visual cortex in human infants.

Author information

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and McGovern Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.
Institute of Medical Physics and Radiation Protection, Department of Life Science Engineering, Mittelhessen University of Applied Science, Giessen 35390, Germany.
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


How much of the structure of the human mind and brain is already specified at birth, and how much arises from experience? In this article, we consider the test case of extrastriate visual cortex, where a highly systematic functional organization is present in virtually every normal adult, including regions preferring behaviourally significant stimulus categories, such as faces, bodies, and scenes. Novel methods were developed to scan awake infants with fMRI, while they viewed multiple categories of visual stimuli. Here we report that the visual cortex of 4-6-month-old infants contains regions that respond preferentially to abstract categories (faces and scenes), with a spatial organization similar to adults. However, precise response profiles and patterns of activity across multiple visual categories differ between infants and adults. These results demonstrate that the large-scale organization of category preferences in visual cortex is adult-like within a few months after birth, but is subsequently refined through development.

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