Year of Publication


Document Type





Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Greg A. Gerhardt

Second Advisor

Jane Joseph


Visual processing, though seemingly automatic, is complex. Typical humansprocess objects and faces routinely. Yet, when a disease or disorder disrupts face andobject recognition, the effects are profound. Because of its importance and complexity,visual processing has been the subject of many adult functional imaging studies.However, relatively little is known about the development of the neural organization andunderlying cognitive mechanisms of face and object recognition. The current projectused functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify maturational changes inthe neural substrates of face and object recognition in 5-8 year olds, 9-11 year olds, andadults. A passive face and object viewing task revealed cortical shifts in the faceresponsiveloci of the ventral processing stream (VPS), an inferior occipito-temporalregion known to function in higher visual processing. Older children and adults recruitedmore anterior regions of the ventral processing stream than younger children. Toinvestigate the potential cognitive basis for these developmental changes, researchersimplemented a shape-matching task with parametric variations of shape overlap,structural similarity (SS), in stimulus pairs. VPS regions sensitive to high SS emerged inolder children and adults. Younger children recruited no structurally-sensitive regions inthe VPS. Two right hemisphere VPS regions were sensitive to maturational changes inSS. A comparison of face-responsive regions from the passive viewing task and the VPSSS regions did not reveal overlap. Though SS drives organization of the VPS, it did notexplain the cortical shifts in the neural substrates for face processing. In addition to VPSregions, results indicated additional maturational SS changes in frontal, parietal, andcerebellar regions. Based on these findings, further analyses were conducted to quantifyand qualify maturational changes in face and object processing throughout the brain.Results indicated developmental changes in activation extent, signal magnitude, andlateralization of face and object recognition networks. Collectively, this project supportsa developmental change in visual processing between 5-8 years and 9-11 years of age.Chapters Four through Six provide an in-depth discussion of the implications of thesefindings.