When do infants differentiate profile face from frontal face? A near-infrared spectroscopic study



The objective of the present study was to determine whether a developmental difference occurs in brain activity when infants look at frontal and profile views using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), which is an optical imaging technique used to measure changes in the concentrations of oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb), deoxyhemoglobin (deoxy-Hb), and total hemoglobin (total-Hb). For this objective, we compared NIRS results in two age groups, 5- and 8-month-old infants, while they were looking at frontal views, profile views, and objects. We found that the concentration of oxy-Hb and total-Hb in the 5-month-old group increased for only frontal views in the right temporal regions. In contrast, the concentration of oxy-Hb and total-Hb in the 8-month-old group increased for both frontal and profile views in the right temporal regions. Therefore, the present study indicated that the right hemisphere was dominant for the perception of profile views as well as frontal views. In addition, the most important and interesting finding was that the infants' brain activity of the face area would become view-invariant at the age of 8 months but not at 5 months. The developmental period for view-invariant face recognition has been discussed in previous psychological studies, but this is the first objective study to confirm that the period is between 5- and 8-months by measuring the blood flow in the brain using NIRS. Hum Brain Mapp, 2009. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.