Science-- there's something for everyone

Saturday, July 21, 2012

To develop binocular vision, look around

In humans, binocular vision, also called stereopsis, develops a few months after birth. Gábor Jandóa from the University of Pécs Medical School and his colleagues wondered whether preterm babies would develop that ability at a later age. In other words, does it take about thirteen months post conception or four months of practice to acquire binocular vision?

Fifteen healthy preterm babies (thirty-one weeks gestation) and fifteen healthy full term babies (thirty-nine weeks) volunteered to advance science. The infants were shown a display that would appear to have dots moving about if it were viewed in stereo. Babies that did not have binocular vision would not be able to see the movement. The researchers monitored the electrical signals from the infants’ brains (via scalp caps) to determine what the children could see.

The preterm babies developed stereopsis at about the same age as their full term cohorts. It didn’t matter that their visual systems had less time to mature, as soon as the infants were born, their eyes were ready to work. This strongly implies that binocular vision depends on looking at the three dimensional world around you.