Functional and morphological assessment of age-related changes in the choroid and outer retina in pigeons

Vis Neurosci. Mar-Apr 2001;18(2):299-317. doi: 10.1017/s0952523801182143.


We sought to determine if choroidal and outer retinal deterioration occur with age in pigeons, as they do in other species, and investigated the relationship between age-related retinal and choroidal changes. In 64 pigeons ranging in age over the pigeon lifespan (0.5-20 years), we measured some or all among the following parameters: choroidal blood flow (ChBF) by laser Doppler flowmetry, choroidal thickness and choriocapillary vessel abundance by LM histology, choriocapillary endothelial cell transport specializations by EM histology, acuity by behavioral methods, and degenerating photoreceptor abundance and total photoreceptor abundance by LM histology. Regression and Receiver Operator Curve (ROC) analyses were used to characterize the pattern of age-related changes and determine the ages at or by which significant changes occurred. For the 45 birds for which we measured choroidal parameters, choriocapillary vessel abundance showed a curvilinear decline with age and half of this decline occurred by 3.5-4.6 years. The endothelial cell transport specializations called channels also declined curvilinearly with age. Choroidal thickness was slightly increased between the ages of 3-6 years, and thereafter declined steadily so that choroidal thickness in the oldest birds was half that in the youngest. ChBF showed an abrupt decline of about 20% at 4 years and a further 20% decline thereafter. In the 53 birds for which we obtained visual acuity and/or photoreceptor data, we observed a curvilinear decline in acuity (with half the decline having occurred by 8 years) and a prominent stepwise decline of about 20% in photoreceptor abundance at 4.7 years, followed by further decline thereafter. The period of major photoreceptor loss coincided with ages during which about 10% of photoreceptors appeared to show degenerative changes (4-8 years of age). Using partial correlation analysis with the common effect of age held constant, ChBF was found to have a positive correlation with acuity. Our results show that ChBF and choroidal vascularity decline significantly with age in pigeons, as do acuity and photoreceptor abundance. Our statistical analyses suggest that prominent choroidal vascular decline preceded the visual decline, and that there is a positive relationship between choroidal and visual functions. Thus, our findings are consistent with the view that age-related decline in choroidal function might contribute to age-related vision loss in pigeons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Choroid / blood supply
  • Choroid / cytology
  • Choroid / physiology*
  • Columbidae / physiology*
  • Female
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry
  • Male
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / cytology
  • ROC Curve
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Vessels / physiology
  • Visual Acuity / physiology