Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Studies of the emergence of shape representations in childhood have focused primarily on the ventral visual pathway. Importantly, however, there is increasing evidence that, in adults, the dorsal pathway also represents shape-based information. These dorsal representations follow a gradient with more posterior regions being more shape-sensitive than anterior regions and with representational similarity in some posterior regions that is equivalent to that observed in some ventral regions. To explore the emergence and nature of dorsal shape representations in development, we acquired both fMRI BOLD signals and behavioral data in children (aged 8–10 years) using a parametric image scrambling paradigm. Children exhibited adult-like large-scale organization of shape processing along both ventral and dorsal pathways. Also, as in adults, the activation profiles of children's posterior dorsal and ventral regions were correlated with recognition performance, reflecting a possible contribution of these signals to perception. There were age-related changes, however, with children being more affected by the distortion of shape information than adults, both behaviorally and neurally. These findings reveal that shape-processing mechanisms along both dorsal and ventral pathways are subject to a protracted developmental trajectory.