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Bull Soc Belge Ophtalmol. 2006;(302):71-88.

Polarization properties of the retinal nerve fiber layer.

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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Recently developed optical techniques provide quantitative structural measurements of the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL). A complete interpretation of these measurements requires understanding of the optical properties of the RNFL. This paper gives a review of the polarization properties and relevant anatomy of the ocular tissues, followed by a thorough discussion of the optical properties of the RNFL. The RNFL reflectance arises from light scattering from cylinders. Microtubules are a major component contributing to the reflectance. The RNFL reflectance exhibits weak intrinsic diattenuation and well preserves polarization. RNFL birefringence varies across the retina; the variation suggests that birefringence depends on the ultrastructure of the nerve fiber bundles, which offers hope that measurement of RNFL birefringence may be able to provide early detection of subcellular changes in glaucoma.

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