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Preemie Color Vision

September 19, 2013

Premature infants have better-developed color vision than full-term infants conceived at the same time.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Preemie vision. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Premature infants are better at distinguishing between the color red and green on a computer screen than full-term infants. (UCSD Infant Vision Lab)

At UC San Diego’s Infant Vision Lab, a researcher plays a sound to get the attention of the baby she’s holding.

(SFX: Attention getter sound)

Contrasting green and red bars then appear on a computer screen. The researcher records whether the baby notices the difference between the colors. Developmental psychologist Emily Blumenthal says premature infants tend to discriminate between the two colors better than full-term babies.

EMILY BLUMENTHAL (UC San Diego):

These infants have the same biological age in terms of date from conception as infants who were born full-term, but they have more experience in the outside world, because they were born prematurely.

HIRSHON:

This extra experience may give otherwise healthy preemies an edge when it comes to color vision development. But they do no better than their full-term peers at distinguishing light from dark, suggesting that sensitivity to brightness might be more influenced by genetic factors than color vision is. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.