Smooth pursuit eye movements are associated with phonological awareness in preschool children

D. Callu, I. Giannopulu, S. Escolano, F. Cusin, M. Jacquier-Roux, G. Dellatolas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Phonological awareness is strongly related to reading ability, but reports are more conflicting concerning the association of high level oculomotor skills with reading. Here, we show that phonological awareness is specifically associated with the ability to perform smooth pursuit eye movements in preschool children. Two large independent samples of preschool children (n = 838 and n = 732) aged 5-6.4 years, without history of neurological disorder, were examined by school medical doctors for visual and oculomotor problems. Nineteen percent of the children in the first sample and 14% in the second failed at the clinical evaluation of smooth pursuit eye movements, and 17 and 15%, respectively, presented another visual or oculomotor problem. Ten short cognitive tests were performed by the same children. Visual and oculomotor problems other than a failure on smooth pursuit were not consistently related to the cognitive tasks, with one exception, the visual recognition of letters. Children who failed at smooth pursuit obtained lower scores at a number of cognitive tasks, and especially phonological awareness tasks and copy of visually presented trajectories. Poor working memory and/or failure of anticipation during the tracking of a visual or auditory stimulus related to frontal cortex immaturity may explain these associations in preschool children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


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