The parts of your baby’s brains that are responsible for visual processing not only respond to various visual stimuli, but also to expectations that your baby has about the visual stimuli.
According to Janet Werker, professor at the University of British Columbia, “The findings offer insights that can shape future research in the area.”
It was earlier thought that only adult brains go through such a sophisticated form of neural processing, as in infants, the brain still takes time to develop various neural connections.
Says co-author Lauren Emberson from the University of Rochester, “We show that in situations of learning and situations of expectations, babies are in fact able to really quickly use their experience to shift the ways the different areas of their brains respond to the environment.”
For the research, a number of experiments were conducted on infants between the ages of five and seven months, where they were exposed to sounds and images for a little over a minute, after which the researchers omitted the image.
Activity was detected in the visual areas of the brain in infants who had been exposed to the pattern, even though the image was not the same as expected.
According to Emberson, “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.”
“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. This shows that infants not only learn about their external worlds, but are ready—from very early in life—to make predictions about the co-occurrence of events on the basis of a very brief previous experience,” adds Werker.
The study was published online in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences