Hemodynamic response to featural changes in the occipital and inferior temporal cortex in infants: a preliminary methodological exploration


Address for correspondence: Teresa Wilcox, Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA; e-mail: tgw@psyc.tamu.edu


Over the past 30 years researchers have learned a great deal about the development of object processing in infancy. In contrast, little is understood about the neural mechanisms that underlie this capacity, in large part because there are few techniques available to measure brain functioning in human infants. The present research examined the extent to which near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), an optical imaging technique, could be used to assess the relation between object processing and brain functioning. Infants aged 6.5 months were presented with an occlusion event involving objects that differed on many feature dimensions (multi-featural change), differed on shape only (shape change) or color only (color change), or did not differ (control). NIRS data were collected in the occipital and inferior temporal cortex. In the occipital cortex, a significant increase in oxyhemoglobin (HbO2) was observed in response to all four events and these responses did not differ significantly from each other. In the inferior temporal cortex, a significant increase in HbO2 was observed in the multi-featural and the shape change condition but not in the control condition. An increase was also observed in the color change condition but this increase did not differ significantly from baseline nor did it differ significantly from the response obtained in the control condition. These data were discussed in terms of (a) what they suggest about the neural basis of feature processing in infants and (b) the viability of using NIRS to study brain–behavior relations in infants.