Adults with amblyopia, a common visual cortex disorder caused primarily by binocular disruption during an early critical period, do not respond to conventional therapy involving occlusion of one eye. But it is now clear that the adult human visual cortex has a significant degree of plasticity, suggesting that something must be actively preventing the adult brain from learning to see through the amblyopic eye. One possibility is an inhibitory signal from the contralateral eye that suppresses cortical inputs from the amblyopic eye. Such a gating mechanism could explain the apparent lack of plasticity within the adult amblyopic visual cortex. Here we provide direct evidence that alleviating suppression of the amblyopic eye through dichoptic stimulus presentation induces greater levels of plasticity than forced use of the amblyopic eye alone. This indicates that suppression is a key gating mechanism that prevents the amblyopic brain from learning to see.
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