Monroy, C.D., Gerson, S.A., Dominguez, E., Kaduk, K., Hunnius, S., & Reid, V. (in press). Sensitivity to structure in action sequences: An infant event-related potential study. Neuropsychologia.
Abstract. Infants are sensitive to structure and patterns within continuous streams of sensory input. This sensitivity relies on statistical learning, the ability to detect predictable regularities in spatial and temporal sequences. Recent evidence has shown that infants can detect statistical regularities in action sequences they observe, but little is known about the neural process that give rise to this ability. In the current experiment, we combined electroencephalography (EEG) with eye-tracking to identify electrophysiological markers that indicate whether 8–11-month-old infants detect violations to learned regularities in action sequences, and to relate these markers to behavioral measures of anticipation during learning. In a learning phase, infants observed an actor performing a sequence featuring two deterministic pairs embedded within an otherwise random sequence. Thus, the first action of each pair was predictive of what would occur next. One of the pairs caused an action-effect, whereas the second did not. In a subsequent test phase, infants observed another sequence that included deviant pairs, violating the previously observed action pairs. Event-related potential (ERP) responses were analyzed and compared between the deviant and the original action pairs. Findings reveal that infants demonstrated a greater Negative central (Nc) ERP response to the deviant actions for the pair that caused the action-effect, which was consistent with their visual anticipations during the learning phase. Findings are discussed in terms of the neural and behavioral processes underlying perception and learning of structured action sequences.