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Neural responses to happy, fearful and angry faces of varying identities in 5- and 7-month-old infants

By Laurie Bayet, Katherine L Perdue, Hannah F Behrendt, John E. Richards, Alissa Westerlund, Julia K Cataldo, Charles A Nelson

Posted 09 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.07.030395 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100882)

Facial emotion processing is an important social skill that develops throughout infancy and early childhood. Here we investigate the neural underpinnings of the ability to process facial emotion across changes in facial identity in cross-sectional groups of 5- and 7-month-old infants. We simultaneously measured neural metabolic, behavioral, and autonomic responses to happy, fearful, and angry faces of different female models using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), eye-tracking, and heart rate measures. We observed significant neural activation to these facial emotions in a distributed set of frontal and temporal brain regions, and longer looking to the mouth region of angry faces compared to happy and fearful faces. No differences in looking behavior or neural activations were observed between 5- and 7-month-olds, although several exploratory, age-independent associations between neural activations and looking behavior were noted. Overall, these findings suggest more developmental stability than previously thought in responses to emotional facial expressions of varying identities between 5- and 7-months of age. ### Competing Interest Statement

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