The remarkable capacity that humans have to recognize countless faces over a lifetime has captured the attention of scientists for years. Even newborn infants are tuned into and attend to the human face. However, adults appear to be more skilled than children in both remembering and differentiating faces, indicating that there is a certain degree of plasticity in face recognition that may be affected by experience. One aspect of face processing that appears to undergo developmental change is perceiving subtle differences in the configuration of the features of a face, a property that is integral to uniquely identifying a person. This type of processing improves with age and continues to develop well into adolescence whereas other aspects of face recognition appear to develop much earlier, even in infancy. Previous research has focused on the development of these capacities from a behavioral perspective, but little research has examined the brain bases efface recognition mechanisms. Understanding the brain basis efface recognition during normal development is of utmost importance in understanding why the brain is not influenced by similar exposure to faces in some developmental disorders, such as autism or congenital prosopagnosia. In the present proposal, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be used as a brain imaging tool to study the development efface recognition capacities from age 6 to adulthood, in normal, healthy human volunteers. This proposal focuses on several aspects of face recognition to determine which mechanisms improve with age and which mechanisms are relatively stable across development. fMRI is ideal for answering such developmental questions due to its non-invasive nature and minimal risks. The findings from this proposal will be integral in establishing the normal pattern of brain development for face recognition, given that few studies have done so to date. Moreover, fMRI can reveal large-scale functional connectivity patterns among brain regions involved in face processing and the present proposal will investigate whether connectivity patterns undergo developmental reorganization. This line of inquiry is important for establishing a baseline to interpret brain connectivity patterns in individuals with difficulties in face recognition. Ultimately, such data can then inform potential treatments or interventions for developmental disorders efface processing and help restore an important aspect of social behavior to these individuals.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Freund, Lisa S
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Medical University of South Carolina
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Gerlach, Christian; Zhu, Xun; Joseph, Jane E (2015) Structural similarity exerts opposing effects on perceptual differentiation and categorization: an FMRI study. J Cogn Neurosci 27:974-87
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Pushkarskaya, Helen; Liu, Xun; Smithson, Michael et al. (2010) Beyond risk and ambiguity: deciding under ignorance. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 10:382-91

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