Edinburgh Research Explorer

The Role of Internally Generated Neural Activity in Newborn and Infant Face Preferences

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Development of Face Processing in Infancy and Early Childhood: Current Perspectives
EditorsOlivier Pascalis, Alan Slater
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Pages133-142
ISBN (Print)1-59033-775-1
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Abstract

Infant face perception is controversial, but the current evidence suggests that (a) newborns orient to and follow face-like schematic patterns more than similar patterns, (b) infants can learn individual faces soon after birth, and (c) full face-processing abilities develop through months or years of experience with faces. Together, these capabilities have proved difficult to explain in terms of either environment-driven learning or genetically hardwired abilities. Accordingly, researchers have proposed that multiple visual processing areas may be involved, some hardwired and some plastic. New discoveries of widespread spontaneous neural activity during development suggest an alternative explanation: a single plastic visual processing system may learn from both spontaneous and visually evoked activity. In simulations with a biologically based computational model, we show that such internally generated patterns and a learning system can account for a wide range of these seemingly contradictory experimental results. The results suggest that learning of both internally generated and environmentally evoked activity may be a general feature of brain development.

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