«Department of Psychology, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK To appear in: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development, 2nd ...»
effects’ show a role for early vision on development of functions that do not normally emerge until later (Maurer, Mondloch, & Lewis, 2007). Profound and lasting visual deprivation can also lead to a major reorganization of the brain’s processing of sensory information, including involvement of the visual cortex in braille reading and echolocation (orientation by sound echoes) in blind people.
Atypical visual processing in developmental disorders Some developmental disorders with atypical brain organization are associated with specific deficits of visual function. For example, there is evidence for specific impairments in the dorsal stream of visual processing,related to coherent motion perception and visual control of movement, in a range of neurodevelopmental disorders including Williams syndrome, fragile X syndrome and autism (‘dorsal stream vulnerability’; Braddick, Atkinson, & Wattam-Bell, 2003). These findings show how visual brain areas vary in their vulnerability to atypical development, and have led to new insights such as mapping of visuo-spatial deficits with object-rotation tasks in Williams syndrome to structural and functional brain abnormalities in the dorsal stream (Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2004). Assessment of visual functions can therefore provide a way into understanding the processes underlying normal and atypical brain development.
Cerebral visual impairment As much of the brain deals with visual information, acquired brain injury can have major effects on visual function. The nature of the deficit can range from parts of the visual field ‘missing’, associated with damage to sites of early visual processing such as the optic nerve and primary visual cortex, to more specific difficulties with object recognition or visual
processing. Although like adults, children can suffer brain injury from traumatic accidents, they are also at risk of congenital injury, including perinatal brain injury. Because of the remarkable plasticity of the developing brain, there is more scope for brain reorganization and recovery of normal function with injuries acquired early in life than at older ages.
Research by Joan Stiles and her colleagues has documented difficulties associated with visual tasks following early brain injury, and the scope for later re-organization (Stiles et al.,2012).
Conclusions Vision is a crucial sense that largely develops postnatally. During this development the visual brain learns to interpret and attach meaning to the information it receives from the eye. The major development of basic aspects of vision such as acuity and contrast sensitivity normally takes place in infancy. From both animal and infant studies, we have a reasonable model for the neurodevelopmental processes underlying basic visual abilities dependent on the primary visual cortex. However, the development of more complex abilities such as coherent form and motion perception, and face and object recognition, continues long into childhood. The reorganization of function in higher cortical visual areas supporting these abilities remains an important topic for current research. It is thought to include changes in the overall architecture (pattern of ‘wiring’ between brain areas) as well as ‘fine-tuning’ of connections, changes that can be driven by both age-related maturation and experience-dependent learning.
Because of the crucial need for normal visual experience, visual development is vulnerable to early deficits such as high optical defocus or congenital cataracts, and for these reasons treatment is generally provided as early as possible. However, new research shows
factors governing brain plasticity and learning in these situations are another important topic of current research.
Constructivist theories; Learning theories; Eye tracking; Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI); Connectionist modeling; The status of the human newborn; Attention;
Biological motion perception; Cognitive development during infancy; Cognitive development beyond infancy; Multisensory perception; Face perception and recognition; Perception and action; Locomotion; Prehension; Brain and behavior development; Cognitive neuroscience; Autism; Fragile X syndrome; Prematurity and low-birthweight; Visual impairments; Williams syndrome; Future of cognitive developmental research Further readings Atkinson, J. & Braddick, O. (2013). Visual Development. In Zelazo, P. D. (Ed), The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Psychology. NY: Oxford University Press.
Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Schrater, P. (2012). Brain plasticity through the life span: Learning to learn and action video games. Annual. Review of. Neuroscience, 35, 391Relevant scientific organisations
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