Early neurosensory visual development of the fetus and newborn

Clin Perinatol. 2004 Jun;31(2):199-216, v. doi: 10.1016/j.clp.2004.04.010.


Neurosensory development of the visual system has its origins long before birth. The genetic processes of basic structure formation are followed by endogenous retinal ganglion cell activation in the form of spontaneous synchronous waves of stimulation. These waves of stimulation are required to establish the topographic relationship among retina, lateral geniculate nucleus, and visual cortex. This process prepares the visual system for visual experience. Visual experience ultimately stimulates creation of columns of neurons in the visual cortex, which are needed to see and interpret patterns, lines, movement, and color. Spontaneous synchronous retinal waves occur in preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit and must be protected, as they are critical for visual development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Eye / embryology*
  • Fetus / embryology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / embryology*
  • Visual Pathways / embryology*