Infant Attention and the Development of Smooth Pursuit Tracking

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The effect of attention on smooth pursuit and saccadic tracking was studied in infants at 8, 14, 20, and 26 weeks of age. A small rectangle was presented moving in a sinusoidal pattern in either the horizontal or vertical direction. Attention level was distinguished with a recording of heart rate. There was an increase across age in overall tracking, the gain of the smooth pursuit eye movements, and an increase in the amplitude of compensatory saccades at faster tracking speeds. One age change was an increase in the preservation of smooth pursuit tracking ability as stimulus speed increased. A second change was the increasing tendency during attentive tracking to shift from smooth pursuit to saccadic tracking when the stimulus speed increased to the highest velocities. This study shows that the development of smooth pursuit and targeted saccadic eye movements is closely related to the development of sustained attention in this age range.

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