The emergence of a theta social brain network during infancy

Bauke van der Velde*, Tonya White, Chantal Kemner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Infants’ socio-cognitive ability develops dramatically during the first year of life. From the perspective of ontogeny, the early development of social behavior allows for parent-child attachment, which in turn enhances survival. Thus, it is theorized that the development of social behavior, driven by social brain networks, forms the core of developmental acquisitions during this period. Further, understanding the maturation within the neural networks during social development is crucial to obtain a better grasp of the development of social developmental disorders. Therefore, we performed a longitudinal study in 854 infants measured at around 5 and 10 months to map the development of functional networks in the brain when infants were processing social and non-social videos. Using EEG, we focused on the frequency bands most commonly connected to social behavior: theta and alpha. We found that alpha networks remained relatively stable over the first year of life and showed no selectivity for social versus non-social stimuli, theta networks, showed strong global reconfigurations. The development of the theta networks progressed from a parietal occipital network in early infancy to a frontoparietal network towards the end of the first year of life. This reconfiguration coincided with selectivity for social versus non-social stimuli, with infants approaching the end of their first year of life showing increased synchronicity of theta communication when watching social videos versus non-social videos. Our findings provide strong evidence for the involvement of a frontoparietal theta network in the development of the social brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118298
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021


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