Purpose: Because of the prominence of central vision in primates, it has generally been assumed that signals from the fovea dominate refractive development. To test this assumption, the authors determined whether an intact fovea was essential for either normal emmetropization or the vision-induced myopic errors produced by form deprivation.
Methods: In 13 rhesus monkeys at 3 weeks of age, the fovea and most of the perifovea in one eye were ablated by laser photocoagulation. Five of these animals were subsequently allowed unrestricted vision. For the other eight monkeys with foveal ablations, a diffuser lens was secured in front of the treated eyes to produce form deprivation. Refractive development was assessed along the pupillary axis by retinoscopy, keratometry, and A-scan ultrasonography. Control data were obtained from 21 normal monkeys and three infants reared with plano lenses in front of both eyes.
Results: Foveal ablations had no apparent effect on emmetropization. Refractive errors for both eyes of the treated infants allowed unrestricted vision were within the control range throughout the observation period, and there were no systematic interocular differences in refractive error or axial length. In addition, foveal ablation did not prevent form deprivation myopia; six of the eight infants that experienced monocular form deprivation developed myopic axial anisometropias outside the control range.
Conclusions: Visual signals from the fovea are not essential for normal refractive development or the vision-induced alterations in ocular growth produced by form deprivation. Conversely, the peripheral retina, in isolation, can regulate emmetropizing responses and produce anomalous refractive errors in response to abnormal visual experience. These results indicate that peripheral vision should be considered when assessing the effects of visual experience on refractive development.