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Pediatric Neuroimaging in Early Childhood and Infancy

Introduction to The Devlopement of Memory During Infancy

Short term memory is the type of memory in which we are able to recollect an object that just appeared in front of our eyes. As we blink and move our eyes around in real-time short-term memory becomes truly essential as it helps us register our surroundings in day to day life. This type of memory is essential for infants too. They need to be able to track and connect objects as they crawl around furniture and other objects. Studies have found that babies aged between 4-6 month can only remember one thing. By the age of ten months they able to retain several things. Infant memory, with time, is able to retain more information and the specificity required for cues slowly decreases (Howard et al 2019 ). There are many parallels between the adult and infant memory system through this essay the development of the infant memory system through various studies and drawing insights with the environment and learning patterns will be studied.

Research

With the advent of technology, the structure of the brain and its function can be easily studied through the process of neuroimaging. It has significantly contributed to the field of neuroscience research and enables the study of temporal processing, spatial localization in cerebral function. To understand the development of motor social cognitive and perceptual skills in infants, the method of neuroimaging techniques must be applied to the study of infant brain. It helps in providing information cues that might otherwise be inaccessible. It has been discovered the imaging infant brain and function can also help research in predicting future developmental trajectories. Their patterns of selective attention or facial recognition can be analysed with the help of neuroimaging (Raschle et al 2012). Various longitudinal and empirical studies have also studied the use of the technology for the study of different developmental aspects of the huma brain.

Another irrefutable methodology to come up has been the eye tracking system. Base don the conjunction that the eyes are connected to the central nervous system, the cognitive function of human being can be tracked and studied. Due to the increase in development of technology and smart phones in the decade this technology has increase the efficiency of research in a significant manner. Different eye tracking instruments can give unbelievable insights about the nervus systems and help in analysing eye movements and memory patterns. The same can be used to study more about the memory function in infants. In the following studies, the major fining and the scope of this technology and methods used for understanding infant memory will be thoroughly analysed.

  1. A decade of infant neuroimaging research: What have we learned and where are we going?

Neuroimaging has drastically altered the lens through which infant memory is analysed. The neural base of human perception cognition and emotion have been examined with the help of neuroscience. These studies have looked into the developmental processes during infancy such as visual, auditory and facial perception and motor development. It also helps in analysing the specific cues that gradually lead to the development of social cognition and language in infants. This study was conducted over a period of 10 years and studied the development of memory and the various factors that affected it in over 700 babies. The four methods used for this process were (i) EEG, (ii) MEG, (iii) fNIRS, and (iv) fMRI.

Electroencephalography is an electrophysiological method used for monitoring the electrical activity in the brain through the study of synaptic activity in the cortical neurons. one of the key findings from EEG is the ease of mapping of neural networks in infants and acquisition of infant brain connectivity. It has opened various avenues that can enable researchers to understand and analyse the functions of the central nervous system in a baby. Several of the studies conducted with ERP have highlighted the significance of the same in face recognition. There is a clear distinction in the neural corelates when babies aged from 4 months to 10 months see a picture of a human being as compared to when they see a picture of a monkey. Another major breakthrough has been the discovery of neural bases for auditory recognition in infants.one of the studies signalled towards the relation between memory development in infants and brain maturity plus post-natal care (de Regnier et al., 2002). All these studies signify how ground-breaking the discovery of EEG has enabled research to analyse the development of perceptual systems in infants and spot the clear differences between the cognitive processes of adult and infant memory(Azhari et al 2020).

  1. Using Eye tracking Methods in Infant Memory Research

The improved technology associated with eye tracking has propelled its further utilization in the field of biology and psychological research to understand cognitive processes. As eyes are directly connected to the central nervous systems researchers can get a direct insight into the neural activity in the brain by monitoring eye movements. Because infants cannot provide verbal cues about their actions, studying eye movements has helped researchers gain genuine insight into what propels memory recall in babies. How their memory is influenced because of visual attention is the main finding and results have shown how younger babies get distracted more easily as compared to the older ones. For examples if a target and a distracter were shown on the screen randomly, three-month old babies were more focused on distracters than those aged 6-9 months (Markant, J., & Amso, D. 2016).

The results of various such eye tracking studies showed the significance if the age factor and different gaze models. It could be noticed that event perception could only occur in infants aged between 4-10 months if it was action oriented. Older babies could focus for longer and had more attention for perceptual development.it has also been discovered that different visual components lead to varied attention effects when associated with recognition memories for new situations associated with differing age groups(YÖNTEMLERİNİN, B. 2018).

  1. Face recognition in infants: A review of behavioural and near-infrared spectroscopic studies

The ability to differentiate between faces is a significant part of the social processes of humans. Numerous studies have showed how this important ability is present even in infants. In fact, the show how infants not show selective attention to faces, they can also differentiate between faces from birth. The face processing bias is evident in infancy and studying the brain neural responses to facial images inside an infant’s brain can be done through the technology of near infrared. These studies have shown clear relation between cortical activity in response to familiar and non-familiar image inside an infant’s brain.

This method of facial recognition using NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy) has actually attained widespread praise amongst neuro scientists because they provide immense insights about the cognitive process associated with memory recall. It has been discovered that infants prefer upright facial configurations over non face like images. They also prefer their mother’s face over other non-familiar faces. Infants stare at face like images way longer than any other images and hence able to process these visual cues much earlier than other cues. Even at the age of three months, an infant is able to retain the memory of its mother’s face and tools like NIRS are able to detect that and provide various other insights (Otsuka, Y. 2014).

  1. Remembering in the Context of Internal States: The Role of Sleep for Infant Memory

The sleeping cycles of infants have been studied as a part of developmental care for a long time. These cues from various states of an infants sleep and wake cycles are used to plan care and interventions. This is extremely necessary for the prevention of sleep and sleep cycles as they are the ones that play the most crucial role in early neurosensory development. Interference and disruptions with sleep can interfere and impact the process of sensory development to a large extent. Sleep is responsible for facilitating neural maturation, this in turn prepares them to process and explore their environment in a better manner. Sleep also plays a very significant role in consolidating all the data or material that the infant has collected when they were awake. One of the most important reasons why sleep cycle shouldn’t be disrupted is the fact that infants process sensory stimuli and learn about their contingency when they are asleep. As infants make the transition from reflexive to cortically mediated control, learned responses to physiological challenges during sleep may be critical adaptations to promote infant survival (Seehagen et al 2019).

Suggestions for Memory Development in Infants

  • Introducing consistency

New parents can introduce a sense of consistency. This is with regard to babies who are aged between 0 to 3 months, as they are only developing short term memory for now, it is advisable that their surroundings be as consistent a possible. This will help them retain visual cues in a more effective manner. Whether it is the little songs the parents sign or the arrange of furniture from playtime to their toys- everything should be in the same, place same. This sense of consistency in the daily routine will definitely help her memory development. These routines and similar patterns help them understand and process their learning throughout the day.

  • Reciprocate

Engage in the babbles of your infant. Make it multisensory. For instance, flip the switch to show them that light comes on when you do so. Talk to your baby almost as if you are having a conversation with an adult. Engage them and give them constant verbal cues. Identify action with verbal cues and repeat them so that the baby can learn to associate the word and sensation with the visual cue. This will help them remember their experiences throughout the day in a more effective manner. Familiarise your baby with the rhythms of speech. For instance, stop and listen to her when she is cooing or babbling. With consistency the aby will understand that when the parent goes quiet, she is supposed to respond. This is for babies from the age of ten months or above. Suing word association and more visual cues to create game out of the same can also be extremely helpful in developing the infants’ memory.

Conclusion on The Devlopement of Memory During Infancy

With the advent of technology understanding the cognitive processes involved with the development of infant memory is possible. At this age they are at their most receptive and can pick up numerous cues without ever realizing. And most of the empirical and longitudinal studies point towards the significance of post-natal care age, neural response rate to these tests in order to determine the developmental rate. Despite the vast generalisation and lack of more subjects. The studies show promising result about how the memory of an infant child can be enhanced and helped through consistent efforts.

References for The Development of Memory During Infancy

Azhari, A., Truzzi, A., Neoh, M. J. Y., Balagtas, J. P. M., Tan, H. H., Goh, P. P., ... & Esposito, G. (2020). A decade of infant neuroimaging research: What have we learned and where are we going?. Infant Behavior and Development58, 101389.

Howard, L. H., & Woodward, A. L. (2019). Human actions support infant memory. Journal of Cognition and Development20(5), 772-789.

Patzwald, C., Matthes, D., & Elsner, B. (2020). Eighteen-month-olds integrate verbal cues into their action processing: Evidence from ERPs and mu power. Infant Behavior and Development58, 101414.

YÖNTEMLERİNİN, B. (2018). USING EYE-TRACKING METHODS IN INFANT MEMORY RESEARCH.

Seehagen, S., Zmyj, N., & Herbert, J. S. (2019). Remembering in the Context of Internal States: The Role of Sleep for Infant Memory. Child Development Perspectives13(2), 110-115.

Markant, J., & Amso, D. (2016). The development of selective attention orienting is an agent of change in learning and memory efficacy. Infancy21(2), 154-176.

deRegnier, R. A., Wewerka, S., Georgieff, M. K., Mattia, F., & Nelson, C. A. (2002). Influences of postconceptional age and postnatal experience on the development of auditory recognition memory in the newborn infant. Developmental psychobiology41(3), 216-225.

Otsuka, Y. (2014). Face recognition in infants: A review of behavioral and near‐infrared spectroscopic studies. Japanese Psychological Research56(1), 76-90.

Bauer, P. J. (2012). Facilitating learning and memory in infants and young children: Mechanisms and method. In S. L. Odom, E. P. Pungello, & N. Gardner-Neblett (Eds.), Infants, toddlers, and families in poverty: Research implications for early child care (p. 49–74). The Guilford Press.

Raschle, N., Zuk, J., Ortiz-Mantilla, S., Sliva, D. D., Franceschi, A., Grant, P. E., ... & Gaab, N. (2012). Pediatric neuroimaging in early childhood and infancy: challenges and practical guidelines. Annals of the New York Academy of sciences1252, 43.

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