From Medical Xpress:

White matter fiber architecture of the brain. Credit: Human Connectome Project.

Visual functions, such as the perception of motion direction, start to develop soon after birth and continue to mature over time as infants gain more experience with the world. However, direct evidence of how this maturation process unfolds in the brain has been lacking because there has been no functional imaging study testing very young infants while awake and visually engaged. A new study publishing in the Open Access journal PLOS Biology on September 29th provides for the first time a direct window into the maturation of vision-related areas of the cortex in the first weeks of life, showing that the visual brain of 7-week-old babies is surprisingly mature.

Maria Concetta Morrone of the IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation and the University of Pisa and her colleagues used (fMRI) to record in awake 7-week-olds while they were visually engaged and also during sleep. The authors provide the first maps of visual cortical function in human infants, shedding new light on neural plasticity very early in life: Unexpectedly, they find that the associative regions of the cortex responsible for motion processing respond similarly in 7-week-olds and adults. What seems to be lagging at this early age is the development of functional connections between these associative areas and the primary visual cortex, the major cortical target of visual input in adults.

Testing very young babies in an fMRI scanner while they’re awake and observing…

Continue Reading