Patterns of brain activity in newborns similar to adults within days of birth

July 29, 2020
Patterns of brain activity in newborns similar to adults within days of birth

Understanding how an infant’s brain – which is more adult-like than assumed – works may be key to identifying problems later on. Research by psychologists at Emory University in Georgia, US, provides an early look into the visual cortex of newborns, using baby-friendly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The adult visual cortex is known to have two regions that work in concert to process faces and another two regions that work together to process places; the visual cortex of young children is also differentiated into these face and place networks. And most recently, Psychology professor Daniel Dilks and colleagues found that this neural differentiation is apparent in babies as young as four months.

Dilks used noninvasive magnetic technology to scan and record the properties in the blood of thirty newborns, including heightened blood flow to a brain region. The infants were secured in an inflatable “super swaddler” at the time of scanning.

“Getting fMRI data from a newborn is a new frontier in neuroimaging,” said graduate student Frederik Kamps. “The scanner is like a giant camera and you need the participant’s head to be still in order to get high quality images. A baby that is asleep is a baby that’s willing to lie still.”

Some adults were also scanned in a resting state, to serve as controls.

The results showed the two regions of the visual cortex associated with face processing fired in sync in the infants, as did the two networks associated with places. The infant patterns were similar to those of the adult participants, although not quite as strong.

“There is room for these networks to keep getting fine-tuned as infants mature into adulthood when these they become fully developed,” Kamps added.


Category: Education, Features

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