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Babies can see things that adults cannot

New research shows that infants under 7 months of age can perceive objects that older infants and adults cannot see because of a phenomenon called “visual retardation disguise.” Loan: University of Chuo, LIMA

We can generally recognize an object, even if it is represented in a very short time. However, if another object appears immediately after the first object, the perception of the first object weakens so that we do not notice its existence. This perceptual phenomenon, called “visual retardation mask”, is used in the science of vision to study how visual perception is developed in the brain. Interestingly, this phenomenon occurs even if the second object does not spatially coincide with the first object, such as the outline or the four points surrounding the object.

It is assumed that this phenomenon is due to the failure of “feedback processing”. When we see something, visual information is serially processed from the lower to the upper visual areas of the brain, from the bottom up. However, the development of top-down feedback, in which visual signals are sent back from higher to lower areas, also plays an important role in visual perception. Visually retarded masking is thought to be due to interference with feedback processing.

“We used a backward mask on 3-8 month old infants to study the development of feedback,” said Yusuke Nakashima, a postdoctoral fellow at Tokyo’s Chuo University. “Recent studies in the field of vision science have shown the importance of developing feedback in visual perception, but its development is poorly understood.”

To test for delayed resistance in newborns, the researchers presented facial expressions on a computer screen and measured the amount of time babies spent on them. Because babies tend to look at their faces longer, researchers can test whether babies perceive faces by measuring how long they look. The faces were presented in two ways. In one case, the face was followed by an image of a mask in which infants could not see the face if there was a backward mask. In another condition, nothing appears after the face. This way, the babies will be able to see the face.

The researchers found that infants 7-8 months of age could not see the faces followed by the mask, indicating that backward masking had occurred in adults. In contrast, infants 3-6 months of age could perceive faces even when the mask image was behind them, indicating that the masking had not occurred, and that younger children could see faces that older children could not.

“These results suggest that feedback processing is inaccessible to children under 7 months of age,” says Nakashima. “That is, smaller infants do not develop feedback, which should prevent backward masking, so masking is ineffective for them.” The results of the study showed that the mechanisms of perception of vision change dramatically in the second half of the first year of life, a system involving bottom-up to top-down processing.

The results also showed that during development, objects that can be perceived in early childhood become invisible. “This may seem unconstitutional,” said Masami Yamaguchi, a professor at Cham University. “Instead, visual acuity will be acquired through the development of feedback processing.”

For example, feedback processing can be used to reinforce ambiguous visual images, such as clogged objects. “Smaller infants with inadequate feedback processing may have an ambiguous perception of the outside world,” says Yamaguchi. “In exchange for sensitivity to visual masking, we gain the ability to perceive ambiguous visual scenes strongly.”


Babies recognize images quickly, just like adults


Additional information:
Yusuke Nakashima et al., Perception of Masked Invisible Objects in Early Childhood Scientific Bulletin of the National Academy of Sciences (2021) DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2103040118:

Provided by Chuo University

Quote:Newborns can see things that adults can not (June 25, 2021) taken from July 2, 2021 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-babies-adults.html

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