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Psychology in the News

Reynolds Awarded NIH Grant

Greg Reynolds, professor of psychology, was awarded a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) titled “Covert orienting and infant visual cognition.” The $151,000 grant begins April 1, 2019, and goes through March 31, 2021.

Project Summary

A growing body of research findings indicates that using visual cues to direct attention can enhance recognition memory and perceptual learning in infancy (e.g., Markant & Amso, 2013). However, relatively little is known about neural mechanisms associated with visual search in infancy, and how these mechanisms might support infant visual attention and perceptual processing. Addressing this gap is critically important for understanding how infants come to effectively process visual information in naturalistic settings.

Past research has shown that the effects of visual attention on perceptual processing change significantly from 3 to 9 months of age (e.g., Reynolds et al., 2013, 2017). These changes may be tied to further development of neural systems involved in visual orienting and attentional control that leads to more efficient and functional visual scanning and perceptual processing across the infancy period. The major objectives of this project are: (1) to examine the effects of attentional cueing on infant visual attention and perceptual processing of visual stimuli; and (2) to identify areas of the brain involved in processing previously cued visual stimuli in infancy.  Infants will be tested at 3, 6, or 9 months of age because neural systems involved in visual orienting and attentional control reach functional onset across this age range (Posner & Peterson, 1990; Reynolds, 2015). Infant visual scanning patterns will be measured using eye tracking and infant neural activity will be measured using event-related potentials (ERP).

Findings from this project will advance scientific knowledge regarding the nature of perceptual learning in infancy and the timing of the development of attention and memory systems involved in visual exploratory behaviors in infancy. Determining the types of attentional cues that are effective at enhancing attention and perceptual processing across this age range can inform future work aimed at developing training programs for fostering early learning in both typically developing infants and infants at-risk for developmental disabilities.

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