Amblyopia is a neuro-developmental disorder of the visual cortex that arises from abnormal visual experience early in life. Amblyopia is clinically important because it is a major cause of vision loss in infants and young children. Amblyopia is also of basic interest because it reflects the neural impairment that occurs when normal visual development is disrupted. Amblyopia provides an ideal model for understanding when and how brain plasticity may be harnessed for recovery of function. Over the past two decades there has been a rekindling of interest in developing more effective methods for treating amblyopia, and for extending the treatment beyond the critical period, as exemplified by new clinical trials and new basic research studies. The focus of this review is on stereopsis and its potential for recovery. Impaired stereoscopic depth perception is the most common deficit associated with amblyopia under ordinary (binocular) viewing conditions (Webber & Wood, 2005). Our review of the extant literature suggests that this impairment may have a substantial impact on visuomotor tasks, difficulties in playing sports in children and locomoting safely in older adults. Furthermore, impaired stereopsis may also limit career options for amblyopes. Finally, stereopsis is more impacted in strabismic than in anisometropic amblyopia. Our review of the various approaches to treating amblyopia (patching, perceptual learning, videogames) suggests that there are several promising new approaches to recovering stereopsis in both anisometropic and strabismic amblyopes. However, recovery of stereoacuity may require more active treatment in strabismic than in anisometropic amblyopia. Individuals with strabismic amblyopia have a very low probability of improvement with monocular training; however they fare better with dichoptic training than with monocular training, and even better with direct stereo training.
Keywords: Amblyopia; Anisometropia; Perceptual learning; Stereopsis; Strabismus; Videogames.
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