Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Given their unique connectivity, a primary function of brain networks must be to transfer and integrate information. Therefore, the way in which information is integrated by individual nodes of the network may be an informative aspect of cognitive processing. Here we present a method inspired by telecommunications research that utilizes time–frequency fluctuations of neural activity to infer how information is integrated by individual nodes of the network. We use a queueing theoretical model to interpret empirical data in terms of information processing and integration. In particular, we demonstrate, in participants aged from 6 to 41 years, that the well-known face inversion phenomenon may be explained in terms of information integration. Our model suggests that inverted faces may be associated with shorter and more frequent neural integrative stages, indicating fractured processing and consistent with the notion that inverted faces are perceived by parts. Conversely, our model suggests that upright faces may be associated with a smaller number of sustained episodes of integration, indicating more involved processing, akin to holistic and configural processing. These differences in how upright and inverted faces are processed became more pronounced during development, indicating a gradual specialization for face perception. These effects were robustly expressed in the right fusiform gyrus (all groups), as well as right parahippocampal gyrus (children and adolescents only) and left inferior temporal cortex (adults only).