Early experience shapes amygdala sensitivity to race: an international adoption design.

Telzer EH, Flannery J, Shapiro M, Humphreys KL, Goff B, Gabard-Durman L, Gee DD, Tottenham N
J Neurosci. 2013 33 (33): 13484-8

PMID: 23946406 · PMCID: PMC3742934 · DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1272-13.2013

In the current study, we investigated how complete infant deprivation to out-group race impacts behavioral and neural sensitivity to race. Although monkey models have successfully achieved complete face deprivation in early life, this is typically impossible in human studies. We overcame this barrier by examining youths with exclusively homogenous racial experience in early postnatal development. These were youths raised in orphanage care in either East Asia or Eastern Europe as infants and later adopted by American families. The use of international adoption bolsters confidence of infant exposure to race (e.g., to solely Asian faces or European faces). Participants completed an emotional matching task during functional MRI. Our findings show that deprivation to other-race faces in infancy disrupts recognition of emotion and results in heightened amygdala response to out-group faces. Greater early deprivation (i.e., later age of adoption) is associated with greater biases to race. These data demonstrate how early social deprivation to race shapes amygdala function later in life and provides support that early postnatal development may represent a sensitive period for race perception.

MeSH Terms (14)

Adolescent Adoption Amygdala Brain Mapping Child Continental Population Groups Emotions Female Humans Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted Infant Magnetic Resonance Imaging Male Pattern Recognition, Visual

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