The present study used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure 5- to 6-month-old infants’ hemodynamic response in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) to visual stimuli differing in saliency and social value. Nineteen Japanese 5- to 6-month-old infants watched video clips of Peek-a-Boo (social signal) performed by an anime character (AC) or a human, and hand movements without social signal performed by an AC. The PFC activity of infants was measured by 22-channel fNIRS, while behaviors including looking time were recorded simultaneously. NIRS data showed that infants’ hemodynamic responses in the PFC generally decreased due to these stimuli, and the decrease was most prominent in the frontopolar (FP), covering medial PFC (MPFC), when infants were viewing Peek-a-Boo performed by an AC. Moreover, the decrease was more pronounced in the dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) when infants were viewing Peek-a-Boo performed by an AC than by a human. Accordingly, behavioral data revealed significantly longer looking times when Peek-a-Boo was performed by an AC than by a human. No significant difference between Peek-a-Boo and non- Peek-a-Boo conditions was observed in either measure. These findings indicate that infants at this age may prefer stimuli with more salient features, which may be more effective in attracting their attentions. In conjunction with our previous findings on responses to self-name calling in infants of similar age, we hypothesize that the dynamic function of the MPFC and its vicinity (as part of default mode network (DMN): enhanced by self-focused stimuli, attenuated by externally focused stimuli), which is consistently observed in adults, may have already emerged in 5- to 6-month-old infants.
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