Previous research has suggested that top-down sensory prediction facilitates, and may be necessary for, efficient transmission of information in the brain. Here we related infants’ vocabulary development to the top-down sensory prediction indexed by occipital cortex activation to the unexpected absence of a visual stimulus previously paired with an auditory stimulus. The magnitude of the neural response to the unexpected omission of a visual stimulus was assessed at the age of 6 months with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and vocabulary scores were obtained using the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (MCDI) when infants reached the age of 12 months and 18 months, respectively. Results indicated significant positive correlations between this predictive neural signal at 6 months and MCDI expressive vocabulary scores at 12 and 18 months. These findings provide additional and robust support for the hypothesis that top-down prediction at the neural level plays a key role in infants’ language development.
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