Early cortical specialization for face-to-face communication in human infants

Tobias Grossmann, Mark H. Johnson, Sarah Lloyd-Fox, Anna Blasi, Fani Deligianni, Clare Elwell, Gergely Csibra

Research output: Article

116 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examined the brain bases of early human social cognitive abilities. Specifically, we investigated whether cortical regions implicated in adults' perception of facial communication signals are functionally active in early human development. Four-month-old infants watched two kinds of dynamic scenarios in which a face either established mutual gaze or averted its gaze, both of which were followed by an eyebrow raise with accompanying smile. Haemodynamic responses were measured by near-infrared spectroscopy, permitting spatial localization of brain activation (experiment 1), and gamma-band oscillatory brain activity was analysed from electroencephalography to provide temporal information about the underlying cortical processes (experiment 2). The results revealed that perceiving facial communication signals activates areas in the infant temporal and prefrontal cortex that correspond to the brain regions implicated in these processes in adults. In addition, mutual gaze itself, and the eyebrow raise with accompanying smile in the context of mutual gaze, produce similar cortical activations. This pattern of results suggests an early specialization of the cortical network involved in the perception of facial communication cues, which is essential for infants' interactions with, and learning from, others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2803-2811
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume275
Issue number1653
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - dec. 22 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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