Neural dynamics underlying coherent motion perception in children and adults.
Manning C., Kaneshiro B., Kohler PJ., Duta M., Scerif G., Norcia AM.
Motion sensitivity increases during childhood, but little is known about the neural correlates. Most studies investigating children's evoked responses have not dissociated direction-specific and non-direction-specific responses. To isolate direction-specific responses, we presented coherently moving dot stimuli preceded by incoherent motion, to 6- to 7-year-olds (n = 34), 8- to 10-year-olds (n = 34), 10- to 12-year-olds (n = 34) and adults (n = 20). Participants reported the coherent motion direction while high-density EEG was recorded. Using a data-driven approach, we identified two stimulus-locked EEG components with distinct topographies: an early component with an occipital topography likely reflecting sensory encoding and a later, sustained positive component over centro-parietal electrodes that we attribute to decision-related processes. The component waveforms showed clear age-related differences. In the early, occipital component, all groups showed a negativity peaking at ˜300 ms, like the previously reported coherent-motion N2. However, the children, unlike adults, showed an additional positive peak at ˜200 ms, suggesting differential stimulus encoding. The later positivity in the centro-parietal component rose more steeply for adults than for the youngest children, likely reflecting age-related speeding of decision-making. We conclude that children's protracted development of coherent motion sensitivity is associated with maturation of both early sensory and later decision-related processes.