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Eye contact influences neural processing of emotional expressions in 4-month-old infants

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2006
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Journal number2
Volume1
Number of pages8
Pages87-94
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Eye gaze is a fundamental component of human communication. During the first post-natal year, infants rapidly learn that the gaze of others provides socially significant information. In addition, infants are sensitive to several emotional expressions. However, little is known regarding how eye contact influences the way the infant brain processes emotional expressions. We measured 4-month-old infants' brain electric activity to assess neural processing of faces displaying neutral, happy and angry emotional expressions when accompanied by direct and averted eye gaze. The results show that processing of angry facial expressions was influenced by eye gaze. In particular, infants showed enhanced neural processing of angry expressions when these expressions were accompanied by direct eye gaze. These results show that by 4 months of age, the infant detects angry emotional expressions, and the infant brain processes their relevance to the self.