What do sight test and eye scan results look like for healthy children aged 0-11?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Ms Cathy Williams
  • Institute: University of Bristol
  • Region: South West
  • Start date: May 2017
  • End Date: January 2019
  • Priority: Early detection
  • Eye Category: Childhood-onset


Conditions that affect the brain can often cause problems with vision. This is known as ‘cerebral visual impairment’.

In children, the causes of cerebral visual impairment include epilepsy, premature birth and being deprived of oxygen at birth. They can all affect the way the brain develops and the connections between nerve cells in different parts of the brain, including the areas that deal with vision.

The researchers think that a type of 3D imaging called optical coherence tomography (OCT) could be a good way to monitor the progress of children with such neurological conditions who attend the Functional Vision Clinic at Bristol Eye Hospital. OCT scans can measure the thickness of the layer of connections from nerve cells in the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye.

This layer of nerve fibres is thinner in conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. Its thickness may also be a good sign of how the connections further into the visual brain have developed.

In this project the research team will use a handheld OCT machine to measure healthy babies and children aged 0-11. The children will also have a set of sight tests as appropriate for their age. The aim is to find out what the standard scans and test results should look like for each age group. Data from the study can then be used in future as a comparison for children with cerebral visual impairment. This would help with diagnosis and may also be a way to monitor the response to treatment.