New concepts concerning the neural mechanisms of amblyopia and their clinical implications

Can J Ophthalmol. 2012 Oct;47(5):399-409. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjo.2012.05.002. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


Amblyopia is a visual impairment secondary to abnormal visual experience (e.g., strabismus, anisometropia, form deprivation) during early childhood that cannot be corrected immediately by glasses alone. It is the most common cause of monocular blindness globally. Patching remains the mainstay of treatment, but it is not always successful and there are also compliance and recurrence issues. Because amblyopia is a neural disorder that results from abnormal stimulation of the brain during the critical periods of visual development, it is essential to understand the neural mechanisms of amblyopia in order to devise better treatment strategies. In this review, I examine our current understanding of the neural mechanisms that underlie the characteristic deficits associated with amblyopia. I then examine modern neuroimaging findings that show how amblyopia affects various brain regions and how it disrupts the interactions among these brain regions. Following this, I review current concepts of brain plasticity and their implications for novel therapeutic strategies, including perceptual learning and binocular therapy, that may be beneficial for both children and adults with amblyopia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amblyopia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Retinal Neurons / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology*