Cortical specialisation to social stimuli from the first days to the second year of life: A rural Gambian cohort.

S. Lloyd-Fox, K. Begus, D. Halliday, L. Pirazzoli, A. Blasi, M. Papademetriou, M.K. Darboe, A.M. Prentice, M.H. Johnson, S.E. Moore, C.E. Elwell

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Brain and nervous system development in human infants during the first 1000 days (conception to two years of age) is critical, and compromised development during this time (such as from under nutrition or poverty) can have life-long effects on physical growth and cognitive function. Cortical mapping of cognitive function during infancy is poorly understood in resource-poor settings due to the lack of transportable and low-cost neuroimaging methods. Having established a signature cortical response to social versus non-social visual and auditory stimuli in infants from 4 to 6 months of age in the UK, here we apply this functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) paradigm to investigate social responses in infants from the first postnatal days to the second year of life in two contrasting environments: rural Gambian and urban UK. Results reveal robust, localized, socially selective brain responses from 9–24 months of life to both the visual and auditory stimuli. In contrast at 0–2 months of age infants exhibit non-social auditory selectivity, an effect that persists until 4–8 months when we observe a transition to greater social stimulus selectivity. These findings reveal a robust developmental curve of cortical specialization over the first two years of life.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Early online date27 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2016


  • fNIRS
  • infancy
  • low- and middle-income countries
  • nutrition
  • poverty
  • social cognition


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