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Jesse Gomez, Michael Barnett, Zonglei Zhen, Kalanit Grill-Spector, Kevin Weiner; Human visual cortex as a window into the developing brain. Journal of Vision 2019;19(15):17. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.15.17.
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The development of the human brain is the most protracted of any species, making childhood experience an integral factor in sculpting the neural hardware that will support behavior in adulthood. Despite its importance, the period of time separating birth from adolescence remains understudied in human neuroscience. I will discuss a series of multimodal experiments focused on human visual cortex as a testbed for understanding how the brain develops. Mapping receptive fields in children for the first time, I will demonstrate that the brain's “window” to the visual world grows from childhood to adulthood, and that the way we look at the world in our childhood impacts how information is pooled within cortex. In another experiment using participants with unique visual experience beginning in childhood -- lifelong players of Pokemon -- we'll also find that the typical retinal image occupied by this new stimulus category is the strongest predictor of emergent cortical specialization, suggesting that the way stimuli are viewed may even determine the organization of visual cortex itself. The potential genetic origins of these phenomena and their implications for maldevelopment will be discussed.
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