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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2009, Vol. 21, No. 12, Pages 2276-2286
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21188)
© 2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Neural Basis of Perceptual Category Learning in Human Infants
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We measured looking times and ERPs to examine the cognitive and brain bases of perceptual category learning in 6-month-old infants. In Experiment 1, we showed that categorization and exemplar discrimination rely on different cortical processes. Specifically, the repetition of individual exemplars resulted in differential cortical processing at posterior channels at an early stage during object processing (100–300 msec), whereas discriminating among members of different categories was reflected in ERP differences over anterior cortical regions occurring later in time (300–500 msec) than the repetition effects. In Experiment 2, replicating the findings of Study 1, we found that infants engage the same cortical processes to categorize visual objects into basic-level categories, regardless of whether a basic (bird vs. fish) or global level is crossed (birds vs. cars). This pattern of findings is consistent with perceptual accounts of infant categorization [Quinn, P. C., & Eimas, P. D. Perceptual organization and categorization in young infants. In C. Rovee-Collier & L. P. Lipsitt (Eds.), Advances in infancy research ( pp. 1–36). Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1996] and accords with recent adult neural-level models of perceptual categorization.