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Chuan Hou, Anthony M. Norcia, Ashima Madan, Solina Tith, Rashi Agarwal, William V. Good; Visual Cortical Function in Very Low Birth Weight Infants without Retinal or Cerebral Pathology. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2011;52(12):9091-9098. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-7458.
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Preterm infants are at high risk of visual and neural developmental deficits. However, the development of visual cortical function in preterm infants with no retinal or neurologic morbidity has not been well defined. To determine whether premature birth itself alters visual cortical function, swept parameter visual evoked potential (sVEP) responses of healthy preterm infants were compared with those of term infants.
Fifty-two term infants and 58 very low birth weight (VLBW) infants without significant retinopathy of prematurity or neurologic morbidities were enrolled. Recruited VLBW infants were between 26 and 33 weeks of gestational age, with birth weights of less than 1500 g. Spatial frequency, contrast, and vernier offset sweep VEP tuning functions were measured at 5 to 7 months' corrected age. Acuity and contrast thresholds were derived by extrapolating the tuning functions to 0 amplitude. These thresholds and suprathreshold response amplitudes were compared between groups.
Preterm infants showed increased thresholds (indicating decreased sensitivity to visual stimuli) and reductions in amplitudes for all three measures. These changes in cortical responsiveness were larger in the <30 weeks ' gestational age subgroup than in the ≥30 weeks' gestational age subgroup.
Preterm infants with VLBW had measurable and significant changes in cortical responsiveness that were correlated with gestational age. These results suggest that premature birth in the absence of identifiable retinal or neurologic abnormalities has a significant effect on visual cortical sensitivity at 5 to 7 months' of corrected age and that gestational age is an important factor in visual development.
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