Development of contrast sensitivity in infants with prenatal and neonatal thyroid hormone insufficiencies

Giuseppe Mirabella, Carol A. Westall, Elizabeth Asztalos, Kusiel Perlman, Gideon Koren, Joanne Rovet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Thyroid hormone is essential for normal brain development including structures critical for visual processing. While chick and rodent models have demonstrated abnormal visual development following prenatal thyroid hormone loss, comparable data do not exist in the human. To determine whether human infants with intrauterine and early postnatal thyroid hormone insufficiencies have compromised visual abilities, we investigated contrast sensitivity and visual acuity development in 13 infant offspring of women with hypothyroidism during pregnancy (HYPO), 16 preterm infants born between 32 and 35 weeks gestation, 12 infants with congenital hypothyroidism (CH), and 20 typically developing infants. All were assessed with the sweep visual evoked potential technique at 3, 4.5, and 6 months (corrected) age. Results showed significantly reduced contrast sensitivity but normal visual acuity in HYPO and CH groups relative to controls (p < 0.003 and p < 0.05 respectively). Stratification of the HYPO group into subgroups based on maternal TSH levels during the first half of pregnancy revealed lower contrast sensitivities for infants whose mothers' TSH values were above than below the median (p < 0.05). In the CH group, those with an absent thyroid gland and/or a newborn TSH value above 200 mIU/L had lower contrast sensitivities than did those with other etiologies or TSH levels below 100 mIU/L (p < 0.05). There were no significant effects involving the preterm group. These results indicate that thyroid hormone is important for human visual development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)902-907
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


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