Presumably, this is not the case with the processing of sensory inputs. As long as inputs can be transmitted through the nervous system by slowly conducting, long-time-constant neurons, it would not be necessary to engage a special mechanism that: (1) could detect the first signs of stimulus change; (2) could conduct this information rapidly to higher centers; and (3) could simultaneously attenuate low-level lines to flexor motor outputs. Thus, it should be possible for orienting-attentional processes to be brought into operation by activity in slowly transmitting paths before rapidly transmitting paths become available. This poses the interesting question of whether the characteristics of information-processing in infants owe more to the immatury of preattentive processes than to the state of maturity of processes usually considered to be more advanced.
This work was supported by The William T. Grant Foundation, Public Health Service grant HD01490 and by a Research Scientist award K3-MH21762. In addition to the many collaborators whose work is cited in the text, special appreciation is expressed to Lois E. Putnam and James W. Brown for the extensive pilot work that made the present studies possible, and to Susan K. Cogan and Alexis R. Itkin for their contributions in the conduct and analysis of studies.
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