Human ventral temporal cortex (VTC) contains category-selective regions that respond preferentially to ecologically-relevant categories such as faces1, bodies2, places3, and words4 and are causally involved in the perception of these categories5-7. However, it is unknown how these regions develop during childhood. Here we used functional MRI and images from many categories to measure longitudinal development of category-selectivity in individual school-age children over the course of 5 years. We show that from young childhood to the teens, face- and word-selective regions in VTC expand and increase in their respective category-selectivity, but limb-selective regions in VTC shrink and lose their preference for limbs. Critically, as a child develops, increases in their face- and word-selectivity are directly linked to decreases in limb-selectivity. These data show that during childhood limb-selectivity in VTC is repurposed into word- and face-selectivity providing the first empirical evidence for cortical recycling8 during childhood development. These results suggest a rethinking of prevailing hypotheses that cortical development involves sculpting of new representations upon general-purpose cortex9,10. Instead, they suggest a new hypothesis that during development VTC representations adjust to changes in the salience and social relevance of visual inputs11, which has important implications for both typical and atypical brain development.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience