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Development of visually evoked cortical activity in infant macaque monkeys studied longitudinally with fMRI.

We studied the development of visual activation longitudinally in two infant monkeys aged 103–561 days using the BOLD fMRI technique under opiate anesthesia and compared the results with those obtained in three adult animals studied under identical conditions. Visual activation in primary visual cortex, V1, was strong and reliable in monkeys of the youngest and oldest ages, showing that functional imaging techniques give qualitatively similar results in infants and adults. Visual activation in extrastriate areas involved in processing motion (MT/V5) and form (V4) was not evident in the younger animals, but became more adult-like in the older animals. This delayed onset of measurable BOLD responses in extrastriate visual cortex may reflect delayed development of visual responses in these areas, although at this stage it is not possible to rule out either effects of anesthesia or of changes in cerebral vascular response mechanisms as the cause. The demonstration of visually evoked BOLD responses in young monkeys shows that the BOLD fMRI technique can usefully be employed to address functional questions of brain development.

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