Introduction Young infants need visual motion perception to understand their environment. Gaze reflects the ability to track moving objects, and includes smooth pursuit (SP) eye movements, saccades and head movements.
Aim To investigate if early visual tracking ability in children born very preterm (VPT) is associated with later neurodevelopment.
Method The VPT infants (n = 68) had mean (SD) gestational age of 28.3 (2.6) weeks and birth weight 1154 (365) g. Ability to track moving objects was recorded at 4 months corrected age (CA) using a system combining electro-oculography and cameras recording head movements. Gaze and proportion of SP were measured. Tracking ability corresponding to at least the 10th percentile of a term born control group was defined as normal, and served as cut off for VPT infants. Neurodevelopment was assessed in VPT infants at 2.5 years (Bayley Scales of Infant Development III, BSID III).
Results At 4 months 37% and 25% of VPT infants had subnormal SP and Gaze, respectively. The table shows group differences in BSID III subscale scores for Gaze and SP, between children with normal compared to subnormal early visual tracking ability.
Conclusions Neurodevelopment at preschool age is better for VPT children with normal SP and Gaze at 4 months. The effect of subnormal Gaze seems more pervasive, indicating head movements to compensate effectively for poor SP.