Getting Started: Imaging the Minds and Brains of Human Infants

Getting Started: Imaging the Minds and Brains of Human Infants from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center On Vimeo.

This Kennedy Center Lecture on Development and Developmental Disabilities was presented on February 12, 2024 and co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.

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.

Captions coming soon.

Last Updated: 2/14/2024 10:48:06 AM

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