Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

John E. Richards

Abstract

This dissertation project studies the development of infant sustained attention and its relation to brain functional connectivity from 6 to 12 months of age. Chapter 1 is a general introduction of the dissertation project. Chapter 2 is a review of the existing literature on the development of infant sustained attention. This chapter includes theories on infant sustained attention and findings from studies using behavioral and psychophysiological measurements. Chapter 3 is a review of the recent advances made in the study of the development of functional connectivity in brain networks. This chapter covers some empirical evidence for the development of functional networks using EEG and fMRI techniques. In Chapter 4 I introduce an experiment that examined the potential relation between infant sustained attention and distinct patterns of brain functional connectivity suggested by the literature reviewed in Chapter 2 and 3. The sample of the experiment consisted of 59 participants aged from 6 to 12 months. Infant sustained attention and inattention were defined by measuring infant heart rate changes. Functional connectivity was estimated with high-density EEG recordings from the electrodes on the scalp and with the reconstructed cortical source activities in brain regions. Graph theory measures were applied to give a broader view of the architecture of brain functional networks. It was found that infant sustained attention was accompanied by attenuated functional connectivity in the dorsal attention and default mode networks in the alpha band. Graph theory analyses showed that there was an increase in path length and a decrease in clustering coefficient during infant sustained attention. The functional connectivity in brain networks and the graph theory measures of path length and clustering coefficient were found to increase with age. The small-worldness was found for infants at 6 and 8 months in the alpha and beta bands. These findings lend support to the hypothesis of the relation between the distinct patterns of brain functional connectivity and infant sustained attention. The current findings also provide convergent evidence for the rapid development of functional connectivity in brain networks during infancy.

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