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Attention recruits frontal cortex in human infants


Ellis, Cameron T; Skalaban, Lena J; Yates, Tristan S; Turk-Browne, Nicholas B (2021), Attention recruits frontal cortex in human infants, Dryad, Dataset,


Young infants learn about the world by overtly shifting their attention to perceptually salient events. In adults, attention recruits several brain regions spanning the frontal and parietal lobes. However, it is unclear whether these regions are sufficiently mature in infancy to support attention and, more generally, how infant attention is supported by the brain. We used event-related fMRI in 24 sessions from 20 awake behaving infants 3–12 months old while they performed a child-friendly attentional cuing task. A target was presented to either the left or right of the infant's fixation and offline gaze coding was used to measure the latency with which they saccaded to the target. To manipulate attention, a brief cue was presented before the target in three conditions: on the same side as the upcoming target (valid), on the other side (invalid), or on both sides (neutral). All infants were faster to look at the target on valid versus invalid trials, with valid faster than neutral and invalid slower than neutral, indicating that the cues effectively captured attention. We then compared the fMRI activity evoked by these trial types. Regions of adult attention networks activated more strongly for invalid than valid trials, particularly frontal regions. Neither behavioral nor neural effects varied by infant age within the first year, suggesting that these regions may function early in development to support the orienting of attention. Together, this furthers our mechanistic understanding of how the infant brain controls the allocation of attention. 


Please refer to the manuscript for details. Citation: Ellis, C. T., Skalaban, L. J., Yates, T. S., & Turk-Browne, N. B. (2021) Attention recruits frontal cortex in human infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118, e2021474118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2021474118

Usage Notes

Please refer to the README for guidance on how to use this data

Note from Aug 19th, 2021: Note that the burn-in information for each of the raw runs was not previously provided. This has now also been uploaded. The README was edited to include this information but otherwise, nothing else was changed.