Socially guided visual attention, such as gaze following and joint attention, represents the building block of higher-level social cognition in primates, although their neurodevelopmental processes are still poorly understood. Atypical development of these social skills has served as early marker of autism spectrum disorder and Williams syndrome. In this study, we trace the developmental trajectories of four neural networks underlying visual and attentional social engagement in the translational rhesus monkey model. Resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) data and gaze following skills were collected in infant rhesus macaques from birth through 6 months of age. Developmental trajectories from subjects with both resting-state fMRI and eye-tracking data were used to explore brain–behavior relationships. Our findings indicate robust increases in functional connectivity (FC) between primary visual areas (primary visual cortex [V1] – extrastriate area 3 [V3] and V3 – middle temporal area, ventral motion areas middle temporal area – AST, as well as between TE and amygdala (AMY) as infants mature. Significant FC decreases were found in more rostral areas of the pathways, such as areas temporal area occipital part – TE in the ventral object pathway, V3 – lateral intraparietal (LIP) of the dorsal visual attention pathway and V3 – temporo-parietal area of the ventral attention pathway. No changes in FC were found between cortical areas LIP-FEF and temporo-parietal area – Area 12 of the dorsal and ventral attention pathways or between AST-AMY and AMY-insula. Developmental trajectory of gaze following revealed a period of dynamic changes with gradual increases from 1 to 2 months, followed by slight decreases from 3 to 6 months. Exploratory association findings across the 6-month period showed that infants with higher gaze following had lower FC between primary visual areas V1–V3, but higher FC in the dorsal attention areas V3-LIP, both in the right hemisphere. Together, the first 6 months of life in rhesus macaques represent a critical period for the emergence of gaze following skills associated with maturational changes in FC of socially guided attention pathways.

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