Neural Basis of Biased Competition in Development: Sensory Competition in Visual Cortex of School-Aged Children

Na Yeon Kim, Mark A. Pinsk, Sabine Kastner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The fundamental receptive field (RF) architecture in human visual cortex becomes adult-like by age 5. However, visuo-spatial functions continue to develop until teenage years. This suggests that, despite the early maturation of the RF structure, functional interactions within and across RFs may mature slowly. Here, we used fMRI to investigate functional interactions among multiple stimuli in the visual cortex of school children (ages 8 to 12) in the context of biased competition theory. In the adult visual system, multiple objects presented in the same visual field compete for neural representation. These competitive interactions occur at the level of the RF and are therefore closely linked to the RF architecture. Like in adults, we found suppression of evoked responses in children's visual cortex when multiple stimuli were presented simultaneously. Such suppression effects were modulated by the spatial distance between the stimuli as a function of RF size across the visual system. Our findings suggest that basic competitive interactions in the visual cortex of children above age 8 operate in an adult-like manner, with subtle differences in early visual areas and area MT. Our study establishes a paradigm and provides baseline data to investigate the neural basis of visuo-spatial processing in typical and atypical development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3107-3121
Number of pages15
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • biased competition theory
  • fMRI
  • selective attention
  • visual development
  • visuo-spatial attention


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