There are two competing theories concerning the development of face perception: a late maturation account and an early maturation account. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) neuroimaging holds promise for adjudicating between the two opposing accounts by providing objective neurophysiological measures of face processing, with sufficient temporal resolution to isolate face-specific brain responses from those associated with other sensory, cognitive and motor processes. The current study used a customized child MEG system to measure M100 and M170 brain responses in 15 children aged three to six years while they viewed faces, cars and their phase-scrambled counterparts. Compared to adults tested using the same stimuli in a conventional MEG system, children showed significantly larger and later M100 responses. Children's M170 responses, derived by subtracting the responses to phase-scrambled images from the corresponding images (faces or cars) were delayed in latency but otherwise resembled the adult M170. This component has not been obtained in previous studies of young children tested using conventional adult MEG systems. However children did show a markedly reduced M170 response to cars in comparison to adults. This may reflect children's lack of expertise with cars relative to faces. Taken together, these data are in accord with recent behavioural and neuroimaging data that support early maturation of the basic face processing functions.
Keywords: Development; Face perception; M100/P100; M170/N170; Magnetoencephalography.
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