Sensory visual loss and cognitive deficits in the selective attentional system of normal infants and neurologically impaired children

Dev Med Child Neurol. 1990 Dec;32(12):1067-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.1990.tb08525.x.


The ability of infants to shift their gaze laterally from a central target (fixation shift) was investigated in normal one- and three-month-old infants in two visual tasks; competition (central fixating stimulus remained visible while peripheral target was presented) and non-competition (central fixating stimulus replaced by peripheral target). The younger infants were significantly more disrupted by the competition condition, in terms of latency to refixate and direction of first eye movement. An immature attention system is proposed to explain this affect. In addition, visually evoked potentials in response to comparable stimuli were easier to elicit in older infants, suggesting that the one-month-olds possessed more immature sensory and perceptual visual systems, as well as poorer neural systems for controlling selective attention. Both techniques have been applied to a group of neurologically impaired children, and the results indicate that the tests may be useful in distinguishing sensory loss from attentional impairments in these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anisometropia / diagnosis
  • Attention*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / diagnosis
  • Reference Values
  • Strabismus / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Visual Fields*