Looking for Vision 1: Vision in a full-term healthy newborn

what does my newborn see? Visual functions in a newborn are sign of neurological health and efficiency

“What does my baby see”?

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions that arise with regards to a newborn and often parents don’t expect their baby to lock eyes and engage with their sight from the very first moments.

We certainly can’t ask a newborn what and how he sees, but… look here! With a simple 10-minute test we can understand a demonstrate how, from birth, newborns possess many different visual skills, which harmoniously develop in time along with the ability to gaze.

These abilities include, for example, the capacity to stare at an object and follow it on different trajectories (horizontal, vertical, circular), even at a growing distance!

Performance analysis of these abilities provide useful information on the features of vision in newborns: engaging and following a high contrast target (black and white) is easier for an infant compared to a combination of similar colors like red and yellow, that might seem more appealing to an adult.

Surprising is the ability to engage and follow a target at a short distance, ability that is present from the first hours of life and is particularly pronounced for images that resemble human face features

Why are these abilities so important?

This area of physiology which focuses on the development of sensory functions in newborns isn’t researched sufficiently. Thanks to Eu-Brain, our researchers are looking further into this area of study.  We can now confidently say that visual functions in a newborn  are a sign of neurological health and efficiency, and contribute to a correct neurological development.
Simply put we claim that these tests and what they represent on the daily basis for parents are a extraordinary channel of communication with our babies from the very first hours of life. They are the opportunity to have an interaction that isn’t easily imaginable.

“Do preterm babies also possess these abilities from birth?”

Yes. Preterm infants also possess surprising and precocious visual abilities. In the next article we will discover how research on preterm vision allows us to understand how each single ability develops in a unique and different way.

Keep following us!

Simone Strano e Michela Bassi

Ricci D. et al, Early assessment of visual function in full term newborns, Early Human Development (2008) 84, 107–113

Ricci D. et al, Application of a neonatal assessment of visual function in a population of low risk full-term newborn, Early Human Development (2008) 84, 277–280


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