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Kennedy Center Lectures on Development and Developmental Disabilities: "Getting Started: Imaging the Minds and Brains of Human Infants"

Date: February 12, 2024

Time: 4:10PM to 5:10PM

Location: OMC 241 (There is no virtual component to this lecture.)

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Lecture on Development and Developmental Disabilities: Getting Started: Imaging the Minds and Brains of Human Infants

Rebecca Saxe, Ph.D., John W. Jarve (1978) Professor, Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Associate Dean, School of Science; Associate Investigator, McGovern Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, 4:10-5:10 p.m. CT
OMC 241, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/One Magnolia Circle Building

In this talk, Dr. Saxe will start with a surprising discovery from human infant neuroimaging: the functions of cortical regions are quite similar, between infants and adults. Indeed, as the methods in our field improve, some initial differences have disappeared, turning into similarities. She'll share some examples from her own lab’s studies using awake fMRI, e.g. to measure cortical responses to faces in 2- to 5-month old infants, and cortical responses to language in toddlers. But, these mounting similarities can’t be the whole story: brains are machines for learning, and infants have a lot to learn to acquire adult minds. So, Dr. Saxe will turn to speculation about why it is easier to confidently measure similarities than differences, and where we might look next for signatures of the difference between infants’ and adults’ brain functions.

About the Speaker: Rebecca Saxe studies human social cognition, using a combination of behavioral testing and brain imaging technologies. She is best known for her work on brain regions specialized for abstract concepts such as “theory of mind” tasks that involve understanding the mental states of other people. While it was previously known that humans and animals have brain regions that are specialized for basic functions such as visual recognition and motor control, this was the first example of a brain region specialized for constructing abstract thoughts. Saxe continues to study this region and has found that it is involved when we make moral judgements about other people. She is also exploring its possible role in autism, where the ability to understand other people’s beliefs and motivations is often impaired. A major area of her work involves looking at how and when these specialized brain regions form in children.

For more information, call (615) 322-8240.

NOTE: Clicking on the "Register" button on this webpage indicates that you are registering to attend IN-PERSON. There is no virtual component to this lecture.

Co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Brain Institute

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For accessibility information or to request an accommodation

Contact kc@vumc.org or 615-322-8240 for disability access information; 2 weeks advance notice is recommended for some accommodations (e.g., Braille, signing).