Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 386–400 | Cite as

The Spatiotemporal Neural Dynamics of Infant Face Processing

  • K. J. Jantzen
  • Lawrence A. Symons
  • Taylor Kredel
  • Benjamin Ratcliff
  • Nikal Toor
  • McNeel G. Jantzen
  • Amanda C. Hahn


Substantial evidence indicates that infant faces are a salient stimulus that receive attentional priority, motivate caretaking behavior, and are rewarding. There is strong support for an early role of reward circuitry, including the orbital frontal cortex, in processing infant faces. Although it is hypothesized that this early activity promotes subsequent positive emotional reactions and greater attention to infant faces, supporting evidence of the spatiotemporal cortical dynamics of infant face processing is lacking. In this study we used electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate the spatiotemporal brain dynamics of face processing to better understand how we process infant faces relative to adult faces. EEG was acquired while participants viewed infant faces and adult faces of the same or opposite sex. Source analysis of the event related potentials revealed activity across a broad face processing network. In keeping with existing work, early increases were observed at the time of the N170 in the orbitofrontal cortex, the inferior occipital gyrus and the fusiform gyrus. Later increases were observed between 300 and 500 milliseconds in the anterior cingulate, the superior temporal sulcus and the precuneus. We argue that the overall pattern of results is compatible with the hypothesis that the rewarding nature of infant features motivates increased activity and motivation of caretaking infants, in part by enhancing processing of the face and heightening attention related circuitry in the brain.


Orbital frontal cortex Fusiform face area Kindchenschema Source modelling Electroencephalography Infant Baby 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. J. Jantzen
    • 1
  • Lawrence A. Symons
    • 1
  • Taylor Kredel
    • 1
  • Benjamin Ratcliff
    • 1
  • Nikal Toor
    • 1
  • McNeel G. Jantzen
    • 1
  • Amanda C. Hahn
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern Washington UniversityBellinghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHumboldt State UniversityArcataUSA

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