The Subcortical And Cortical Visual Pathways Analysis

2012 words - 9 pages

In order to be selective in attending to a complex environment infants need to be capable of engaging and disengaging in attention. When newborns are awake and alert their attention is not random it is organised and selective (Ruff & Rothbart, 2001). Attention engagement is an effortful engagement with stimuli; it is also referred to as sustained attention (Stechlar & Latz, 1966). The ability to detect changes in stimuli over sustained periods requires effort (Ruff & Rothbart, 2001). Attention disengagement refers to when attention to a stimulus is terminated (Colombo, 2001). Attention disengagement is necessary in order to shift attention to other aspects of the environment. Disengagement is often studied with a spatial cuing paradigm (Butcher, Kalverboer, & Geuze, 2000). In this essay the subcortical and cortical visual pathways will be discussed. The subcortical system is devoted mainly to processing information received from the central area of the retina (Bronson, 1974). The cortical system is concerned with the analysis and encoding of complex visual patterns (Bronson, 1974). This essay will discuss research that has shown the subcortical visual system components to be more developed at birth than those in the cortical system. This essay introduces the basic processes of attention, the methods that are used to assess them, and the brain structures involved. This essay will further discuss the importance of developmental changes in attentional processes.

Research studies have shown infants can engage in obligatory attention. Stechlar and Latz (1966) observed three infants for three weeks almost every day following birth. The infants were presented with three types of visual stimuli such as; black and white drawings of faces and geometric forms, real faces held quiet and still and real faces that moved, talked and smiled. Results highlighted the duration the infants spent looking at the stimuli was several minutes and the termination of the attention was accompanied by fussing and/or crying. This implies infants can engage in obligatory attention. Research has shown obligatory attention tapers off from 2-3 months and selective attention starts to develop; which is when the infant remembers objects in a category (Ruff & Rothbart, 2001).

Research has shown newborn infants can initiate localising eye movements very rapidly if the central stimulus disappears at the time of peripheral target onset. Aslin and Salapatek (1975) explored the probability, latency, direction and form of infant’s eye movements toward a peripheral target which is replacing or added to a central fixation stimulus. Electro-oculography as well as direct observation was used to investigate this. In this experiment there were 24 1 month olds and 24 2 month olds although 16 subjects were eliminated from the study. Subjects were presented with addition and replacement trials along the vertical, the horizontal or one of the two diagonal axes in the stimulus field. Peripheral...

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