The Science of Babies’ First Sight

When a newborn opens her eyes, she does not see well at all. You, the parent, are a blurry shape of light and dark. Soon, though, her vision comes online. Your baby will recognize you, and you can see it in her eyes. Then baby looks beyond you and that flash of recognition fades. She can't quite make out what's out the window. It's another blurry world of shapes and light. But within a few months, she can see the trees outside. Her entire world is coming into focus. University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine scientists have found more clues about what happens in the brains of baby mammals as they try to make visual sense of the world. The study in mice, published online on January 9, 2016 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is part of an ongoing project in the lab of Spencer Smith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology, to map the functions of the brain areas that play crucial roles in vision. Proper function of these brain areas is likely critical for vision restoration. "There's this remarkable biological operation that plays out during development," Dr. Smith said. "Early on, there are genetic programs and chemical pathways that position cells in the brain and help wire up a 'rough draft' of the circuitry. Later, after birth, this circuitry is actively sculpted by visual experience: simply looking around our world helps developing brains wire up the most sophisticated visual processing circuitry the world has ever known. Even the best supercomputers and our latest algorithms still can't compete with the visual processing abilities of humans and animals.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story