Our current understanding of the development of refractive errors, in particular myopia, would be substantially limited had Wiesel and Raviola not discovered by accident that monkeys develop axial myopia as a result of deprivation of form vision. Similarly, if Josh Wallman and colleagues had not found that simple plastic goggles attached to the chicken eye generate large amounts of myopia, the chicken model would perhaps not have become such an important animal model. Contrary to previous assumptions about the mechanisms of myopia, these animal models suggested that eye growth is visually controlled locally by the retina, that an afferent connection to the brain is not essential and that emmetropisation uses more sophisticated cues than just the magnitude of retinal blur. While animal models have shown that the retina can determine the sign of defocus, the underlying mechanism is still not entirely clear. Animal models have also provided knowledge about the biochemical nature of the signal cascade converting the output of retinal image processing to changes in choroidal thickness and scleral growth; however, a critical question was, and still is, can the results from animal models be applied to myopia in children? While the basic findings from chickens appear applicable to monkeys, some fundamental questions remain. If eye growth is guided by visual feedback, why is myopic development not self-limiting? Why does undercorrection not arrest myopic progression even though positive lenses induce myopic defocus, which leads to the development of hyperopia in emmetropic animals? Why do some spectacle or contact lens designs reduce myopic progression and others not? It appears that some major differences exist between animals reared with imposed defocus and children treated with various optical corrections, although without the basic knowledge obtained from animal models, we would be lost in an abundance of untestable hypotheses concerning human myopia.
Keywords: accommodation; children's vision; myopia, retina.
© 2015 Optometry Australia.