What can a baby see?

Human infants see poorly. At birth there are many immaturities in the eyes and visual parts of the brain. Newborns behave as though they are looking through a dense fog - objects have to be bold, bright, and large to generate a response.

Try this website www.tinyeyes.com to see an estimate of the vision of newborns.

Visual responses develop very rapidly over the first 3-6 months. Infants move their eyes together and accurately by around 3 months, which soon leads to good depth perception.

Infants start to respond to colored targets by around 2 months of age. The development of acuity (detailed vision), however, takes somewhat longer. Adult levels of acuity are not reached until at least a year of age. This means that very young babies are not capable of detecting subtle features in a face - in fact they will frequently spend more time looking at the edge of a face than at the eyes.

Babies are born with a wide range of refractive errors (spectacle prescriptions). They are typically far-sighted (hyperopic/hypermetropic) at birth, but are able to focus over it. The range of refractive errors usually reduces over the first year or so.

It is extremely important that a baby's visual system experiences sharp, focused images as the visual part of the brain takes a number of years to fully develop. Without a focused image and equal use of the two eyes during the early 'critical period' of development, we know that the brain does not develop to use a weaker eye. This leads to 'lazy eye' or amblyopia. The child then needs to wear a patch to stimulate vision in the weaker eye. For this reason many organizations now recommend that infants' eyes are examined at some point during their first year.

This experience-dependent development is the central theme of research in our laboratory. We ask - How does the visual system use the available visual information to refine its development?

Would you like to participate in a study with your baby?



800 E. Atwater Ave. Bloomington, IN 47405-3680
Phone: (812) 855-4959
Last updated: February 1, 2007
Comments: ibaby@indiana.edu
Indiana University

November 8, 2006