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Neural event segmentation of continuous experience in human infants

Citation

Yates, Tristan et al. (2022), Neural event segmentation of continuous experience in human infants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vhhmgqnx1

Abstract

How infants experience the world is fundamental to understanding their cognition and development. A key principle of adult experience is that, despite receiving continuous sensory input, we perceive this input as discrete events. Here we investigate such event segmentation in infants and how it differs from adults. Research on event cognition in infants often uses simplified tasks in which (adult) experimenters help solve the segmentation problem for infants by defining event boundaries or presenting discrete actions/vignettes. This presupposes which events are experienced by infants and leaves open questions about the principles governing infant segmentation. We take a different, data-driven approach by studying infant event segmentation of continuous input. We collected whole-brain fMRI data from awake infants (and adults, for comparison) watching a cartoon and used a hidden Markov model to identify event states in the brain. We quantified the existence, timescale, and organization of multiple event representations across brain regions. The adult brain exhibited a known hierarchical gradient of event timescales, from shorter events in early visual regions to longer events in later visual and associative regions. In contrast, the infant brain only represented longer events, even in early visual regions, with no timescale hierarchy. The boundaries defining these infant events only partially overlapped with boundaries defined from adult brain activity and behavioral judgments. These findings suggest that events are organized differently in infants, with longer timescales and more stable neural patterns, even in sensory regions. This may indicate greater temporal integration and reduced temporal precision during dynamic, naturalistic perception.

Methods

Please refer to the manuscript for details.

Citation: Yates, T. S., Skalaban, L. J., Ellis, C. T., Bracher, A. J., Baldassano, C., & Turk-Browne, N. B. (2022). Neural event segmentation of continuous experience in human infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Usage Notes

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Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: DGE 1752134

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

James S. McDonnell Foundation, Award: https://doi.org/10.37717/2020-1208