Development of visual cortical function in infant macaques: A BOLD fMRI study

Tom J. Van Grootel, Alan Meeson, Matthias H.J. Munk, Zoe Kourtzi, J. Anthony Movshon, Nikos K. Logothetis, Lynne Kiorpes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Functional brain development is not well understood. In the visual system, neurophysiological studies in nonhuman primates show quite mature neuronal properties near birth although visual function is itself quite immature and continues to develop over many months or years after birth. Our goal was to assess the relative development of two main visual processing streams, dorsal and ventral, using BOLD fMRI in an attempt to understand the global mechanisms that support the maturation of visual behavior. Seven infant macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were repeatedly scanned, while anesthetized, over an age range of 102 to 1431 days. Large rotating checkerboard stimuli induced BOLD activation in visual cortices at early ages. Additionally we used static and dynamic Glass pattern stimuli to probe BOLD responses in primary visual cortex and two extrastriate areas: V4 and MT-V5. The resulting activations were analyzed with standard GLM and multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) approaches. We analyzed three contrasts: Glass pattern present/absent, static/dynamic Glass pattern presentation, and structured/random Glass pattern form. For both GLM and MVPA approaches, robust coherent BOLD activation appeared relatively late in comparison to the maturation of known neuronal properties and the development of behavioral sensitivity to Glass patterns. Robust differential activity to Glass pattern present/ absent and dynamic/static stimulus presentation appeared first in V1, followed by V4 and MT-V5 at older ages; there was no reliable distinction between the two extrastriate areas. A similar pattern of results was obtained with the two analysis methods, although MVPA analysis showed reliable differential responses emerging at later ages than GLM. Although BOLD responses to large visual stimuli are detectable, our results with more refined stimuli indicate that global BOLD activity changes as behavioral performance matures. This reflects an hierarchical development of the visual pathways. Since fMRI BOLD reflects neural activity on a population level, our results indicate that, although individual neurons might be adult-like, a longer maturation process takes place on a population level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0187942
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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