Similarities and differences between behavioral and electrophysiological visual acuity thresholds in healthy infants during the second half of the first year of life



Behavioral and electrophysiological methods for visual acuity estimation typically correlate well in children and adult populations, but this relationship remains unclear in infants, particularly during the second half of the first year of life. It has been suggested that the agreement between both methods mostly relies on age and/or subjective acuity factors. The present study aimed at comparing acuity thresholds obtained with both approaches in a sample of healthy infants in a relatively narrow age range, that is 6–10 months old.


Acuity thresholds were assessed in 61 healthy infants aged between 6 and 10 months using the Teller acuity cards (TAC) and sweep visual evoked potentials (sVEP). The TAC stimuli (stationary vertical gratings displayed on laminated cards) ranged from 0.31 to 38 cycles per degree (cpd). The TAC acuity threshold was estimated according to the highest spatial frequency scored by the experimenter as seen by the infant. The sVEP stimuli (high-contrast vertical gratings counter-phased at 12 reversals/s) ranged from 13.5 to 1 cpd. sVEP were recorded at Oz and acuity threshold was estimated using regression linear fitting.


Considering the entire sample, sVEP acuity thresholds (8.97 ± 2.52 cpd) were significantly better than TAC scores (5.58 ± 2.95 cpd), although the difference was within 1 octave for 64% of the infants. Neither Pearson nor intra-class correlations between the two methods were significant (0.18 and 0.03, respectively). While age at assessment was not related to any dependent variable (TAC, sVEP, sVEP–TAC difference score), subjective (behavioral) acuity was found to underlie the difference between the two methods. The difference between sVEP and TAC scores decreased as a function of subjective acuity, and at the highest subjective acuity level (>10 cpd), TAC acuity slightly exceeded sVEP acuity.


The superiority of sVEP acuity often reported in the literature was evident in our infant sample when subjective acuity (TAC) was low or moderate, but not when it was high (>10 cpd). The relationship between the two estimation methods was not dependent on age, but on subjective acuity.

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The authors thank all families for their participation in this study and Mathieu Simard for his very helpful assistance in data collection and analysis. This research was funded by Health Canada. C. Polevoy was supported by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Research Award.


Health Canada provided financial support in the form of research funding. The sponsor had no role in the design or conduct of this research.

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Correspondence to Dave Saint-Amour.

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Polevoy, C., Muckle, G., Séguin, J.R. et al. Similarities and differences between behavioral and electrophysiological visual acuity thresholds in healthy infants during the second half of the first year of life. Doc Ophthalmol 134, 99–110 (2017).

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  • Visual acuity
  • Teller acuity cards
  • Sweep visual evoked potentials
  • Infant