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CCN talk February 18, 2020

Marco Buiatti

Marco Buiatti

Neurophysicist, Neonatal Neuroimaging Unit

Center for Mind/Brain Sciences - CIMeC

University of Trento

Cortical route for face processing in human newborns

Time: 11:00am-12:00pm

Place: Moore Hall, room 418


Humans are endowed with an exceptional ability for detecting faces, a competence that, in adults, is supported by a set of face-specific cortical patches. Human newborns, already shortly after birth, preferentially orient to faces, but the neural substrates underlying this early preference are still largely unexplored. Is the adult face-specific cortical circuit already active at birth, or does its specialization develop slowly as a function of experience and/or maturation? Here I will describe a recent study addressing this question by measuring EEG responses in awake, attentive human newborns to schematic facelike patterns and non-facelike control stimuli, visually presented with slow oscillatory “peekaboo” dynamics in a frequency-tagging design. Despite the limited duration of newborns’ attention, reliable responses could be estimated for each stimulus. Crucially, facelike stimuli elicited a significantly stronger response than non-facelike controls in a large set of electrodes. Source reconstruction of the underlying cortical activity revealed the recruitment of a partially right-lateralized network comprising lateral occipitotemporal and medial parietal areas overlapping with the adult face-processing circuit. This result suggests that the cortical route specialized in face processing is already functional at birth.