How do infants learn? Neural oscillations shed light on infant attention & learning
Infants constantly integrate novel information into their developing semantic networks. The role of the theta rhythm in encoding and memory formation has been well established in animal models and human adults. Meanwhile, our understanding of neural oscillations in human infants is still very limited. I will present our recent studies implicating the 4 Hz theta rhythm in 9-month-old infants’ processing of unexpected events. Results suggest that oscillatory activity in the theta band supports integration of novel information into existing concepts in infants. I will further present our ongoing work into the role of theta oscillations for the formation of novel object representations. We applied multivariate pattern analyses on the EEG data of 6- to 8-month-olds and adults viewing various images from four different categories. Results show that theta band neural oscillations form the basis of visual category representations in infants, and that these representations are shifted to the faster alpha/beta band in adults. Together, results speak to an integral role of the theta rhythm for learning in the infant brain.