The Davida Teller Award Lecture, 2016: Visual Brain Development: A review of "Dorsal Stream Vulnerability"-motion, mathematics, amblyopia, actions, and attention

J Vis. 2017 Mar 1;17(3):26. doi: 10.1167/17.3.26.


Research in the Visual Development Unit on "dorsal stream vulnerability' (DSV) arose from research in two somewhat different areas. In the first, using cortical milestones for local and global processing from our neurobiological model, we identified cerebral visual impairment in infants in the first year of life. In the second, using photo/videorefraction in population refractive screening programs, we showed that infant spectacle wear could reduce the incidence of strabismus and amblyopia, but many preschool children, who had been significantly hyperopic earlier, showed visuo-motor and attentional deficits. This led us to compare developing dorsal and ventral streams, using sensitivity to global motion and form as signatures, finding deficits in motion sensitivity relative to form in children with Williams syndrome, or perinatal brain injury in hemiplegia or preterm birth. Later research showed that this "DSV" was common across many disorders, both genetic and acquired, from autism to amblyopia. Here, we extend DSV to be a cluster of problems, common to many disorders, including poor motion sensitivity, visuo-motor spatial integration for planning actions, attention, and number skills. In current research, we find that individual differences in motion coherence sensitivity in typically developing children are correlated with MRI measures of area variations in parietal lobe, fractional anisotropy (from TBSS) of the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and performance on tasks of mathematics and visuo-motor integration. These findings suggest that individual differences in motion sensitivity reflect decision making and attentional control rather than integration in MT/V5 or V3A. Its neural underpinnings may be related to Duncan's "multiple-demand" (MD) system.

Publication types

  • Lecture
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amblyopia / physiopathology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Awards and Prizes
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Nerve Net
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*