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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 Apr 12;54(4):2616-23. doi: 10.1167/iovs.12-11347.

Reflectance speckle of retinal nerve fiber layer reveals axonal activity.

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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami, Miami, Florida 33136, USA.



This study investigated the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) reflectance speckle and tested the hypothesis that temporal change of RNFL speckle reveals axonal dynamic activity.


RNFL reflectance speckle of isolated rat retinas was studied with monochromatic illumination. A series of reflectance images was collected every 5 seconds for approximately 15 minutes. Correlation coefficients (CC) of selected areas between a reference and subsequent images were calculated and plotted as a function of the time intervals between images. An exponential function fit to the time course was used to evaluate temporal change of speckle pattern. To relate temporal change of speckle to axonal activity, in vitro living retina perfused at a normal (34°C) and a lower (24°C) temperature, paraformaldehyde-fixed retina, and retina treated with microtubule depolymerization were used.


RNFL reflectance was not uniform; rather nerve fiber bundles had a speckled texture that changed with time. In normally perfused retina, the time constant of the CC change was 0.56 ± 0.26 minutes. In retinas treated with lower temperature and microtubule depolymerization, the time constants increased by two to four times, indicating that the speckle pattern changed more slowly. The speckled texture in fixed retina was stationary.


Fixation stops axonal activity; treatments with either lower temperature or microtubule depolymerization are known to decrease axonal transport. The results obtained in this study suggest that temporal change of RNFL speckle reveals structural change due to axonal activity. Assessment of RNFL reflectance speckle may offer a new means of evaluating axonal function.

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