How does the

brain change  as

expertise is acquired?


Are young children who have extremely intense interests "experts?" Does the brain processing of the category of expertise in children look like that seen in adults?

1)  My interest in letter processing emerged from an interest in perceptual expertise. This interest was motivated by my postdoctoral work with Isabel Gauthier and involved participation in the Perceptual Expertise Network.

James, K.H. & Gauthier, I. (2009). When writing impairs reading: Letter perception’s susceptibility to motor interference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 416-431.  doi: 10.1037/a0015836


Wong, A C-N, Jobard, G., James, T.W., James, K.H., Gauthier, I. (2009). Expertise with characters in alphabetic and non-alphabetic writing system engage the same occipito-temporal areaCognitive Neuropsychology, 26, 111-127.

doi: 10.1080/02643290802340972


James, K.H. & Gauthier, I. (2006). Letter processing automatically recruits a sensory-motor brain network. Neuropsychologia, 44(14), 2937-2949.


James, K.H., James, T.W., Jobard, G., Wong, C-N., & Gauthier, I (2005). Letter processing in the visual system: Different activation patterns for single letters and strings. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 5(4), 452-466.

2) These questions  also led to a study on young children who were experts in Pokemon cards.  In this study, we showed that indeed, Pokemon experts showed brain activation patterns similar to the adult response to faces.  Unlike non-experts, these children showed increased activation to pictures of Pokemon in the right fusiform gyrus that was even greater than their response to faces.

James, T.W. & James, K.H. (2013). Expert individuation of objects increases activation in the fusiform face area of children. NeuroImage, 67, 182-192. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.11.007

We are presently investigating the development of this type of expertise in older participants (Morson & James, in progress).  In this current research program we ask questions such as: Do child experts continue to be experts in other domains? How often does the domain shift and how long does an individual stay in one category of expertise? What types of vocations do child experts choose? What kind of background supports child expertise? Are there personality factors that lead to perceptual expertise?

Cognition & Action Neuroimaging Lab | 1101 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405 | (812)856-7237 |