Multiple sensitive periods in human visual development: evidence from visually deprived children

Dev Psychobiol. 2005 Apr;46(3):163-83. doi: 10.1002/dev.20055.


Psychophysical studies of children deprived of early visual experience by dense cataracts indicate that there are multiple sensitive periods during which experience can influence visual development. We note three sensitive periods within acuity, each with different developmental time courses: the period of visually-driven normal development, the sensitive period for damage, and the sensitive period for recovery. Moreover, there are different sensitive periods for different aspects of vision. Relative to the period of visually driven normal development, the sensitive period for damage is surprisingly long for acuity, peripheral vision, and asymmetry of optokinetic nystagmus, but surprisingly short for global motion. A comparison of results from unilaterally versus bilaterally deprived children provides insights into the complex nature of interactions between the eyes during normal visual development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cataract / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Period, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*