Fifty patients with permanent cortical visual impairment were evaluated. They had a characteristic behaviour profile, usually with residual sight but poor visual attention. 30 of the 50 also had damage to the anterior visual pathway. Visual evoked potential mapping was shown to have a clear advantage over visual evoked responses, and using that in conjunction with CT and clinical data enabled several subgroups of cortical visual impairment to be identified. The diagnosis probably is more common than previously recognised, and should be suspected when there is greater delay in visual development in other areas and the degree of visual loss is unexplained by ocular findings. Using traditional criteria for cortical blindness may mean that many children are not diagnosed, which has serious implications for their rehabilitation.