Vision in very early infancy is probably subserved by subcortical pathways, with many cortical processes only fully emerging by 3 months of age. The improvement of vision in delayed visual maturation (DVM) occurs around this time, and this has given rise to the suggestion that the condition may have a subcortical basis that resolves with the appearance of cortical function. To explore further the role of cortical and subcortical visual systems in DVM we studied the visual development in identical twins, one of whom had type 1b DVM. Two non-invasive methods of investigating visual pathway function were employed: the acuity card procedure (a behavioural response) and luminance and grating pupillometry. While the former reflects both subcortical and cortical function and can be detected at birth, pupil responses to gratings reflect cortical activity alone and normally become measurable at 1 month of age. Development of both behavioural and pupillary responses was delayed in DVM, indicating that although the underlying defect is primarily subcortical, secondarily it delays the emergence of cortically mediated responses. The observed rapidity of improvement--over a very few days and within a narrow age range--suggests a discrete rather than a widespread structural abnormality, the improvement of which is closely linked to postmenstrual age.