Research Summary: The Shift from Local to Global Visual Processing in 6-Year-Old Children Is Associated with Grey Matter Loss



A real-world visual scene consists of local elements (e.g. trees) that are arranged coherently into a global configuration (e.g. a forest). Children show psychological evolution from a preference for local visual information to an adult-like preference for global visual information, with the transition in visual preference occurring around 6 years of age. The brain regions involved in this shift in visual preference have not been described.

Methods and Results

We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to study children during this developmental window to investigate changes in gray matter that underlie the shift from a bias for local to global visual information. Six-year-old children were assigned to groups according to their judgment on a global/local task. The first group included children who still presented with local visual processing biases, and the second group included children who showed global visual processing biases. VBM results indicated that compared to children with local visual processing biases, children with global visual processing biases had a loss of gray matter in the right occipital and parietal visuospatial areas.


These anatomical findings are in agreement with previous findings in children with neurodevelopmental disorders and represent the first structural identification of brain regions that allow healthy children to develop a global perception of the visual world.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 8-June-2011

Author(s): Poirel N., Simon G., Cassotti M., Leroux G., Perchey G., Lanoë C., Lubin A., Turbelin M., Rossi S., Pineau A., Houdé O.


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