Essay on Emotion Processing in an Infant Brain

3 pages
592 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Facial expressions present essential information for infants development and behavior. In fact, throughout the prime years of their lives, infants can establish various emotions in a face. But how do infants manage to distinguish between emotions in a face? Well, the neural foundation of facial-emotion processing is not well-defined, but according to previous studies done in adults, it was discovered that there are a lot of brain areas that are involved in emotion perception. Moreover, these brain areas presented models on the brain routes through which visual data reaches these areas. The author was not able to directly examine these pattern in infancy because there are a lot of spatial restrictions currently practiced in infants.

The main objective of the article was to determine the visual data (higher and lower spatial frequencies) infants use to distinguish between emotions. Spatial frequencies are very critical in our study since they are processed through distinct routes. Previous studies in adults show that emotion processing system is comprised of cortical and subcortical brain areas such as fusiform gyrus, orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala and the superior temporal sulcus. However, this emotion processing network forms early in life. This means that infants brain activity is molded by emotion type.

Based on the findings gathered from the dual route method of face processing, emotions in faces are processed through two linked brain routes that are the cortical route and the subcortical pathways. The subcortical pathway provides visual data through the thalamus to the OFC and the amygdala whereas the cortical pathways link the visual cortex with the fusiform gyrus and the superior temporal sulcus. Higher and lower spatial frequency data are carried through the cortical cortex and subcortical cortex respectively. However, inclusion of higher and lower spatial frequency data in emotion discrimination varies across development. This means that kids brain activity changes between emotions when faces have higher and lower spatial frequencies. Nine to ten-month-old infants are expected to show powerful emotion processing that is why the author decided to study them to learn the impacts of spatial frequency on discrimination of different emotions.

The author took a sample of approximately sixty-one 9-10 month infants. All infants studied had no abnormalities and were born full-term. Most importantly, the medical ethical committee of the University Medical Center Utrecht approved the research. After being told of the process, all guardians and parents gave written informed consent before the study began. Face stimuli comprised of images of 10 facial identities each shown under three emotional conditions taken from MacBrain face stimulus set. During the procedure, babies were seated in a high chair, and the stimuli were then presented to them on a twenty-three inches screen. The video camera was placed on top of the screen for online observation. The whole process lasted for approximately seven minutes. EEG activity was recorded using a Bio semi Active system located at standard EEG recording locations. The researchers used Matlab and Brain vision analyzer software to process the data gathered from the study.

After a critical evaluation of the recorded data, the author determined that there is a differential involvement of higher and lower spatial frequency data in emotion processing but only for perceptual processing. These outcomes are in line with the previous studies in children and adults. It is imperative to know that perceptual processing occurs in the superior temporal sulcus and the fusiform gyrus for a general overview of this emotion-processing system.


Boomen, C. V., Munsters, N. M., & Kemner, C. (2017). Emotion processing in the infant brain: The importance of local information. Neuropsychologia. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.09.006

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