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Basal ganglia damage and impaired visual function in the newborn infant
  1. Eugenio Mercuria,b,
  2. Janette Atkinsona,
  3. Oliver Braddicka,
  4. Shirley Ankera,
  5. Frances Cowanb,
  6. Mary Rutherfordb,c,
  7. Jackie Pennockc,
  8. Lilly Dubowitzb
  1. aVisual Development Unit, University College London, bDepartment of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine, cR Steiner MRI Unit, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London
  1. Dr Eugenio Mercuri, Department of Paediatrics, Hammersmith Hospital, Du Cane Road, London W12 OHN.


AIM To examine the effects of early lesions in the visual pathway on visual function; and to identify early prognostic indicators of visual abnormalities.

METHODS The visual function of 37 infants with perinatal brain lesions on magnetic resonance imaging was assessed using behavioural and electrophysiological variables.

RESULTS Normal visual behaviour was observed in most infants with large bilateral occipital lesions, but all the infants with associated basal ganglia involvement had abnormal visual function. Visual abnormalities were also present in six infants with isolated basal ganglia lesions.

CONCLUSIONS These observations suggest that basal ganglia may have an integral role in human visual development and that their presence on neonatal MRI could be an early marker of abnormal visual function.

Key messages • In agreement with previous animal studies, our study has suggested that basal ganglia may play an important role in infant’s vision.

• The involvement of basal ganglia on neonatal MRI, seems to be more often associated with impaired visual function than lesions involving the visual occipital cortex.

• A wide battery of tests is necessary to evaluate various aspects of visual function.

  • vision
  • MRI
  • visual evoked potentials
  • basal ganglia

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