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Curr Biol. 2013 Apr 22;23(8):R309-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.004.

A push-pull treatment for strengthening the 'lazy eye' in amblyopia.


Almost all individuals exhibit sensory eye dominance, one neural basis of which is unequal interocular inhibition. Sensory eye dominance can impair binocular functions that depend on both excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms. We developed a 'push-pull' perceptual learning protocol that simultaneously affects the excitatory and inhibitory networks to reduce sensory eye dominance and improve stereopsis in adults with otherwise normal vision. The push-pull protocol provides a promising clinical paradigm for treating the extreme sensory eye dominance in amblyopia ('lazy eye'). The prevailing standard of care does not directly treat sensory eye dominance; instead, selected excitatory functions in the amblyopic eye are stimulated while the strong eye is patched, on the assumption that recovery of the weak eye's excitatory functions rebalances the eyes. Patching the strong eye does not directly address interocular inhibition; in contrast, the push-pull protocol by design excites the weak eye, while completely inhibiting the strong eye's perception to recalibrate the interocular balance of excitatory and inhibitory interactions. Here, we show that three adult amblyopes who trained on the push-pull protocol gained longstanding improvements in interocular balance and stereopsis. Our findings provide a proof-of-concept and evidence that push-pull learning leads to long-term plasticity.

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