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Development of motion speed perception from infancy to early adulthood: a high-density EEG study of simulated forward motion through optic flow
Experimental Brain Research  (IF1.972),  Pub Date : 2021-08-21, DOI: 10.1007/s00221-021-06195-5
Rasulo, Stefania, Vilhelmsen, Kenneth, van der Weel, F. R. (Ruud), van der Meer, Audrey L. H.

This study investigated evoked and oscillatory brain activity in response to forward visual motion at three different ecologically valid speeds, simulated through an optic flow pattern consisting of a virtual road with moving poles at either side of it. Participants were prelocomotor infants at 4–5 months, crawling infants at 9–11 months, primary school children at 6 years, adolescents at 12 years, and young adults. N2 latencies for motion decreased significantly with age from around 400 ms in prelocomotor infants to 325 ms in crawling infants, and from 300 and 275 ms in 6- and 12-year-olds, respectively, to 250 ms in adults. Infants at 4–5 months displayed the longest latencies and appeared unable to differentiate between motion speeds. In contrast, crawling infants at 9–11 months and 6-year-old children differentiated between low, medium and high speeds, with shortest latency for low speed. Adolescents and adults displayed similar short latencies for the three motion speeds, indicating that they perceived them as equally easy to detect. Time–frequency analyses indicated that with increasing age, participants showed a progression from low- to high-frequency desynchronized oscillatory brain activity in response to visual motion. The developmental differences in motion speed perception are interpreted in terms of a combination of neurobiological development and increased experience with self-produced locomotion. Our findings suggest that motion speed perception is not fully developed until adolescence, which has implications for children’s road traffic safety.