Development and learning of saccadic eye movements in 7- to 42-month-old children

J Vis. 2016;16(1):6. doi: 10.1167/16.1.6.


From birth, infants move their eyes to explore their environment, interact with it, and progressively develop a multitude of motor and cognitive abilities. The characteristics and development of oculomotor control in early childhood remain poorly understood today. Here, we examined reaction time and amplitude of saccadic eye movements in 93 7- to 42-month-old children while they oriented toward visual animated cartoon characters appearing at unpredictable locations on a computer screen over 140 trials. Results revealed that saccade performance is immature in children compared to a group of adults: Saccade reaction times were longer, and saccade amplitude relative to target location (10° eccentricity) was shorter. Results also indicated that performance is flexible in children. Although saccade reaction time decreased as age increased, suggesting developmental improvements in saccade control, saccade amplitude gradually improved over trials. Moreover, similar to adults, children were able to modify saccade amplitude based on the visual error made in the previous trial. This second set of results suggests that short visual experience and/or rapid sensorimotor learning are functional in children and can also affect saccade performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eye / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Young Adult