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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Jun 15;90(12):5494-8.

Amblyopia induced by anisometropia without shrinkage of ocular dominance columns in human striate cortex.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0730.


Amblyopia can be induced by opacity of the ocular media (e.g., cataract), misalignment of the ocular axes (strabismus), or unequal refractive error in the eyes (anisometropia). Experiments in monkeys have shown that early monocular eyelid suture, a model of amblyopia caused by cataract, results in shrinkage of the eye's ocular dominance columns in striate cortex. This reduction of the geniculocortical projection from the deprived eye has been thought to explain in part the mechanism of amblyopia. We labeled the ocular dominance columns in monkeys with amblyopia by using cytochrome oxidase histochemistry. In animals rendered amblyopic by early unilateral eyelid suture, no pattern of cytochrome oxidase activity appeared in layer IVc. Outside layer IVc, alternating rows of light and dark patches were present; the pale patches fit in register with the shrunken ocular dominance columns of the deprived eye, which were labeled by autoradiography. Subsequent removal of one eye caused a striking cytochrome oxidase pattern to emerge in layer IVc that correlated precisely with the shrunken (deprived eye) and expanded (normal eye) ocular dominance columns. This correlation was shown by injecting one eye with [3H]proline. It has remained unsettled whether other forms of amblyopia are accompanied by shrinkage of ocular dominance columns. To address this issue, in an analogous clinical case, we examined the pattern of cytochrome oxidase activity in a human subject with a history of anisometropic amblyopia who suffered a lesion of one optic nerve shortly before death. The ocular dominance columns were normal in width, indicating that some forms of amblyopia occur without shrinkage of ocular dominance columns.

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