New perspectives in amblyopia therapy on adults: a critical role for the excitatory/inhibitory balance

Front Cell Neurosci. 2011 Nov 24;5:25. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2011.00025. eCollection 2011.


Amblyopia is the most common form of impairment of visual function affecting one eye, with a prevalence of about 1-5% of the total world population. This pathology is caused by early abnormal visual experience with a functional imbalance between the two eyes owing to anisometropia, strabismus, or congenital cataract, resulting in a dramatic loss of visual acuity in an apparently healthy eye and various other perceptual abnormalities, including deficits in contrast sensitivity and in stereopsis. It is currently accepted that, due to a lack of sufficient plasticity within the brain, amblyopia is untreatable in adulthood. However, recent results obtained both in clinical trials and in animal models have challenged this traditional view, unmasking a previously unsuspected potential for promoting recovery after the end of the critical period for visual cortex plasticity. These studies point toward the intracortical inhibitory transmission as a crucial brake for therapeutic rehabilitation and recovery from amblyopia in the adult brain.

Keywords: GABAergic inhibition; amblyopia; environmental enrichment; fluoxetine; neural plasticity; perceptual learning.