Developmental Science

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Volume 10 Issue 4 (July 2007), Pages F15-F38, 423-511

Visual category‐selectivity for faces, places and objects emerges along different developmental trajectories (pages F15-F30)


The organization of category‐selective regions in ventral visual cortex is well characterized in human adults. We investigated a crucial, previously unaddressed, question about how this organization emerges developmentally. We contrasted the developmental trajectories for face‐, object‐, and place‐selective activation in the ventral visual cortex in children, adolescents, and adults. Although children demonstrated adult‐like organization in object‐ and place‐related cortex, as a group they failed to show consistent face‐selective activation in classical face regions. The lack of a consistent neural signature for faces was attributable to (1) reduced face‐selectivity and extent of activation within the regions that will become the FFA, OFA, and STS in adults, and (2) smaller volumes and considerable variability in the locus of face‐selective activation in individual children. In contrast, adolescents showed an adult‐like pattern of face‐selective activation, although it was more right‐lateralized. These findings reveal critical age‐related differences in the emergence of category‐specific functional organization in the visual cortex and support a model of brain development in which specialization emerges from interactions between experience‐dependent learning and the maturing brain.

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