The Role of Internally Generated Neural Activity in Newborn and Infant Face Preferences (2003)
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.

In Olivier Pascalis and Alan Slater, editors, Face Perception in Infancy and Early Childhood, 133-142, New York, 2003. NOVA Science Publishers.

James A. Bednar Postdoctoral Alumni jbednar [at] inf ed ac uk