Infants use expectations to shape brains, study reveals

July 22, 2015 13:59
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Recent studies showed that infants can use their expectations about world to swiftly shape their developing brains. Besides responding to the presence of visual stimuli, parts of brains responsible for visual processing also respond to expectation of visual stimuli.

A professor at the University of British Columbia, Janet Werker, said that “The findings offer insights that can shape future research in the area.”

Co-author Lauren Emberson from the University of Rochester said, “We show that in situations of learning and situations of expectations, babies are able to really quickly use their experience to shift the ways different areas of their brain respond to the environment.”

Research on infant’s brain

According to the research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a series of experiments were conducted on infants aged five to seven months. The infants were exposed to sounds and images for a short time, after which researchers begun to omit image.

The brain activity was detected in the visual areas of brains of exposed infants, even though the image did not appear as expected.

“We find that the visual areas of the infant brain respond both when they see things, which we knew, but also when they expect to see things but don’t,” Mr. Emberson said.

“Most exciting to me is the evidence this work provides that from very early in infancy, the cortex is able to set up expectations about incoming events,” Mr. Werker said. He added that the research indicates that infants are ready to make predictions about co-occurrence of events based on very brief previous experience.

- Sumana

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