Do spatial constraints on oxygen flow drive neural specialisation in the first year of life?

Prof. Emily Jones (primary)
Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development
Prof. Clare Elwell (secondary)
Department of Medical Physics


Over the first three years of life, a growing body of evidence suggests that neural specialisation is driven by inter-regional competition (Johnson, 2011). But what resource limitations drive this competition? Possibly, increases in access to oxygenated blood cannot occur simultaneously across all brain regions. This may limit the timing with which brain areas can be ‘activated’ by a given stimulus, driving the emergence of spatial specialisation. Testing this model requires simultaneous measurement of brain activity and oxygen utilisation in awake infants. This project will address this question using our new combined NIRS cytochrome-EEG recording system for awake infants and toddlers.


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Haartsen, R., Jones, E. J., Orekhova, E. V., Charman, T., & Johnson, M. H. (2019). Functional EEG connectivity in infants associates with later restricted and repetitive behaviours in autism; a replication study. Translational psychiatry, 9(1), 66.

Johnson, M. H. (2011). Interactive specialization: a domain-general framework for human functional brain development?. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 1(1), 7-21.

Kolyva C, Tachtsidis I, Ghosh A, Moroz T, Cooper C, Smith M, Elwell CE, (2012) Systematic investigation of changes in oxidized cerebral cytochrome c oxidase concentration during frontal lobe activation in healthy adults Biomed Opt Express. Oct 1;3(10):2550-66

Siddiqui MF, Lloyd-Fox S, Kaynezhad P, Tachtsidis I, Johnson MH, Elwell CE. (2017) Non-invasive measurement of a metabolic marker of infant brain function. Sci Rep. 2017 May 2;7(1):1330. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-01394-z.

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