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Fetal Eye Movements in Response to a Visual Stimulus

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article numbere01676
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/08/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Brain and Behavior
Issue number8
Number of pages6
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/07/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In 2D ultrasound the lens of the fetal eye can be distinguished as white circles within the hypoechoic eyeball, and eye movements can be visualised from about 15 weeks’ gestation. It has been shown that from 31 weeks gestational age the fetal sensory system is capable of directed vision if enough light is available.
We have developed a light source for delivering visual stimuli to be seen by the fetal eye, using laser dot diodes emitting at 650 nm. The 2D component of 94 fetal ultrasound scans (mean gestational age 240 days), where the light stimulus was presented, was coded to determine whether the eyes moved in response to the stimuli independent of any head movement.
The light stimulus significantly provoked head and eye movements, but after the light was withdrawn the head stopped moving, yet the eyes continued to move.
This provides evidence for visual attention mechanisms that can be controlled through eye movements that are independent of head movements prior to birth.