Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology


Visual impairment in infancy: impact on neurodevelopmental and neurobiological processes

Patricia M Sonksen  MD FRCP FRCPCH a1 c1 and Naomi Dale  BA MA PhD a2
a1 Institute of Child Health, University College, London, UK.
a2 Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, London, UK.


This review draws together current understanding of the impact of visual impairment (VI) on early neurodevelopmental and neurobiological processes. The impact is recognized as being substantial. Two major problems make it difficult to draw conclusions from much of the literature on this subject. The first is the heterogeneity of samples of children with VI in terms of additional impairments that introduce multiple confounding variables: in Western societies the prevalence of additional impairments is 60 to 70%. Secondly, subgrouping according to the degree or severity of VI is inconsistent and can be suboptimal for developmental studies of infancy. Our group has reconsidered these questions of taxonomy and applied new ones to our recent research cohorts.

(Accepted June 10 2002)

c1 The Wolfson Centre, Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2AP, UK. E-mail: