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Mental Health - Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Pediatrics and Child Health

The Predictive Nature of Individual Differences in Early Associative Learning and Emerging Social Behavior
Published: Monday, January 23, 2012
Author: Bethany C. Reeb-Sutherland et al.

by Bethany C. Reeb-Sutherland, Pat Levitt, Nathan A. Fox

Across the first year of life, infants achieve remarkable success in their ability to interact in the social world. The hierarchical nature of circuit and skill development predicts that the emergence of social behaviors may depend upon an infant's early abilities to detect contingencies, particularly socially-relevant associations. Here, we examined whether individual differences in the rate of associative learning at one month of age is an enduring predictor of social, imitative, and discriminative behaviors measured across the human infant's first year. One-month learning rate was predictive of social behaviors at 5, 9, and 12 months of age as well as face-evoked discriminative neural activity at 9 months of age. Learning was not related to general cognitive abilities. These results underscore the importance of early contingency learning and suggest the presence of a basic mechanism underlying the ontogeny of social behaviors.