0246 GMT May 24, 2019
The research, carried out on babies from one to six months of age, was conducted by the French National Center for Scientific Research, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, Euronews reported.
It aimed to study infants' face perception because of its importance in their development.
Jessica Dubois, one of the three researchers, said, "Faces are one of the most frequent stimuli that babies are looking at, so it’s very important for developing many abilities, such as social communication.”
The study also aimed to understand brain lateralization in infants, which is when one side of the brain is more involved in processing certain stimuli than the other.
In an adult, face perception is known to be mainly processed in the right hemisphere of the brain.
The research has shown that since an early stage in life the brain's right hemisphere is more efficient than the left in discriminating faces.
In general, when a stimulus is presented to one side of the visual field, it is the opposite side of the brain that begins to process this information.
So, when a face was shown to the babies' left, the right side of the brain perceived the stimuli and was able to distinguish it correctly.
However, when the stimulus was presented to the babies' right side, the left hemisphere, which is not specialized in face perception, was not able to perceive the faces to such an extent.
In an adult, if this had been the case, the information would have been transferred to the right side to be further processed.
However, the study has found that in infants this transfer of information is not fully developed.
Dubois explained, "In babies, the left hemisphere is incompetent in discriminating the faces and also on transmitting the information to the right side, so the right side can’t take the lead and interpret the information as it is the case in adults.”
Either way, despite the weak transfer of information from one hemisphere to another, Dubois explained that the evidence of lateralization shown in the study proves that the brain carries its complex functional architecture from birth.
"Sometimes, you feel that a baby is not able to do things. But, their brain is already processing and integrating many complex information, and already at this early stage it is highly specialized like the adult brain to process stimuli like speech, faces, etc."
Still according to Dubois, the fact that we are born with these functional specializations means that the development of these cognitive abilities is highly influenced by genetics and evolution.