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      Eye contact detection in humans from birth

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          Abstract

          Making eye contact is the most powerful mode of establishing a communicative link between humans. During their first year of life, infants learn rapidly that the looking behaviors of others conveys significant information. Two experiments were carried out to demonstrate special sensitivity to direct eye contact from birth. The first experiment tested the ability of 2- to 5-day-old newborns to discriminate between direct and averted gaze. In the second experiment, we measured 4-month-old infants' brain electric activity to assess neural processing of faces when accompanied by direct (as opposed to averted) eye gaze. The results show that, from birth, human infants prefer to look at faces that engage them in mutual gaze and that, from an early age, healthy babies show enhanced neural processing of direct gaze. The exceptionally early sensitivity to mutual gaze demonstrated in these studies is arguably the major foundation for the later development of social skills.

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          Most cited references 17

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          Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates.

          Infants between 12 and 21 days of age can imitate both facial and manual gestures; this behavior cannot be explained in terms of either conditioning or innate releasing mechanisms. Such imitation implies that human neonates can equate their own unseen behaviors with gestures they see others perform.
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            Spatial sampling of head electrical fields: the geodesic sensor net.

             Don Tucker (1993)
            In studying brain electrical activity from scalp sensors (electrodes), the optimal measurement would sample the potential field over the entire surface of the braincase, with a sufficient density to avoid spatial aliasing of the surface electrical fields. The geodesic sensor net organizes an array of sensors, each enclosed in a saline sponge, in a geodesic tension structure comprised of elastic threads. By fixing a sensor pedestal at each geodesic vertex, the geometry of the tension structure insures insures that the sensor array is distributed evenly across the accessible head surface. Furthermore, the tension of the network is translated into compression that is divided equally among the sensor pedestals and directed along head-radial vectors. Various geodesic partitioning frequencies may be selected to provide an even surface distribution of the dense sensor arrays (e.g., 64, 128, or 256) that appear to be necessary to provide adequate spatial sampling of brain electrical events.
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              Event-related brain potentials distinguish processing stages involved in face perception and recognition.

               Martin Eimer (2000)
              An event-related brain potential (ERP) study investigated how different processing stages involved in face identification are reflected by ERP modulations, and how stimulus repetitions and attentional set influence such effects. ERPs were recorded in response to photographs of familiar faces, unfamiliar faces, and houses. In Part I, participants had to detect infrequently presented targets (hands), in Part II, attention was either directed towards or away from the pictorial stimuli. The face-specific N170 component elicited maximally at lateral temporal electrodes was not affected by face familiarity. When compared with unfamiliar faces, familiar faces elicited an enhanced negativity between 300 and 500 ms ('N400f') which was followed by an enhanced positivity beyond 500 ms post-stimulus ('P600f'). In contrast to the 'classical' N400, these effects were parietocentrally distributed. They were attenuated, but still reliable, for repeated presentations of familiar faces. When attention was directed to another demanding task, no 'N400f' was elicited, but the 'P600f' effect remained to be present. While the N170 reflects the pre-categorical structural encoding of faces, the 'N400f' and 'P600f' are likely to indicate subsequent processes involved in face recognition. Impaired structural encoding can result in the disruption of face identification. This is illustrated by a neuropsychological case study, demonstrating the absence of the N170 and later ERP indicators of face recognition in a prosopagnosic patient.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                July 09 2002
                June 24 2002
                July 09 2002
                : 99
                : 14
                : 9602-9605
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.152159999
                123187
                12082186
                © 2002
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