NACS Seminar: "How Learning During Infancy Enhances and Constrains Brain and Behavioral Development Across Domains and into Childhood"
Dr. Lisa Scott, University of Florida
"How Learning During Infancy Enhances and Constrains Brain and Behavioral Development Across Domains and into Childhood"
The developing infant sees the world differently across time and with experience. Using a combination of cross-sectional and longitudinal-training designs, behavioral measures of looking time, eye-tracking, and electrophysiological recordings of neural activity (event-related potentials; ERPs) we have begun to elucidate the perceptual and cognitive experiences that enhance or bias learning during the first year of life. Our work suggests that infants carefully learn from their surrounding environment and that this learning influences cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and social processing. Here, I will present work that examines the role experience plays in shaping infant learning about people and objects and how parental labeling during the first year of life can serve as a springboard for cognitive skills in childhood. For example, when infants hear parents label two different monkey faces in a storybook with individual -level names like ‘Oliver’ or ‘Suzie’ they learn that it is likely important for them to attend to the visual details necessary to tell the two monkeys apart. However, if parents label all monkeys, “monkey” infants learn to group them into a category and focus on the features that the two monkeys share. These differences can be identified both in behavior and in the brain. Our recent findings suggest learning at the level of the individual, in infancy, results in immediate developmental benefits and general skills lasting into early childhood (i.e., 4 years). Finally, I will also describe some of our recent work linking early perceptual learning to emotion processing and social learning from eye-gaze. Combined, the results of this research are noteworthy because they link early learning, prior to the onset of productive language and several years prior to formal education, with broad developmental capacities, later cognitive skills and neural responses.