Potential downside of high initial visual acuity

Lukas Vogelsang, Sharon Gilad-Gutnick, Evan Ehrenberg, Albert Yonas, Sidney Diamond, Richard Held, Pawan Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Children who are treated for congenital cataracts later exhibit impairments in configural face analysis. This has been explained in terms of a critical period for the acquisition of normal face processing. Here, we consider a more parsimonious account according to which deficits in configural analysis result from the abnormally high initial retinal acuity that children treated for cataracts experience, relative to typical newborns. According to this proposal, the initial period of low retinal acuity characteristic of normal visual development induces extended spatial processing in the cortex that is important for configural face judgments. As a computational test of this hypothesis, we examined the effects of training with high-resolution or blurred images, and staged combinations, on the receptive fields and performance of a convolutional neural network. The results show that commencing trainingwith blurred images creates receptive fields that integrate information across larger image areas and leads to improved performance and better generalization across a range of resolutions. These findings offer an explanation for the observed face recognition impairments after late treatment of congenital blindness, suggest an adaptive function for the acuity trajectory in normal development, and provide a scheme for improving the performance of computational face recognition systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11333-11338
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Oct 30 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Deep neural networks
  • Sight restoration
  • Spatial integration
  • Visual acuity
  • Visual development

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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