The major objective of the proposed research is to develop and test a completely novel methodology to study infant cognition and action using multiple levels of recording and analysis. Infant visual attention toward graspable objects will be measured using eye-tracking technology combined with event-related potential (ERP) measures during visual inspection and immediately prior to reaching for the object. Of particular interest will be the relationship between neural activity and visual scanning in planning and executing successful reaches. 4.5- and 9-month-old infants will be tested to provide insights into the early development of controlled reaching.
Aim 1 examines interrelationships between infant visual scanning patterns (measured with eye-tracking) and event- related potential correlates of infant visual attention during visual inspection of an object prior to reaching. It is predicted that olde infants will demonstrate greater integration of looking and reaching behavior than younger infants, and that infants will demonstrate greater consistency in looking and reaching behavior on attentive trials than inattentive trials (as indexed with ERP measures).
Aim 2 examines the impact of visual scanning, and attention on the planning and execution of goal-directed behavior by identifying "pre-reaching" ERP components occurring immediately preceding the initiation of reaching movements. It is predicted that a pre- reaching component associated with voluntary initiation of reaching will be identified in the ERP that will be greater in amplitude on trials in which infants demonstrate consistency in looking and reaching behavior (representing planned reaches) than on trials in which looking and reaching are inconsistent (representing reactive reaching).
Aims 1 and 2 will be addressed in a single experiment composed of simultaneous measurement of infant visual scanning, ERPs, and analysis of reaching behavior. Research utilizing these approaches has traditionally been conducted across parallel but separate research programs. Integrating these approaches into a single study will produce findings which will shed light on the attentional processes involved in action planning and execution, an aspect of infant behavior that has never been investigated before. The development of a feasible approach to simultaneous measurement of infant visual scanning, neural activity, and motor behavior will represent a major advance in the sophistication of psychophysiological tools available for research with preverbal infants.
The simultaneous use of multiple measures is aimed at developing a comprehensive method of identifying relations between attention and action in the development and production of motor skills. This procedure could ultimately be applied across a wide range of tasks, thus providing an innovative tool for future research on perception, cognition, and action. Understanding the range of variability that occurs in these tasks in typically developing infants will ultimately aid in the early identification of patterns indicativeof atypical development.