Dynamic response to initial stage blindness in visual system development

Clin Sci (Lond). 2017 Jun 28;131(13):1515-1527. doi: 10.1042/CS20170234. Print 2017 Jul 1.


Sensitive periods and experience-dependent plasticity have become core issues in visual system development. Converging evidence indicates that visual experience is an indispensable factor in establishing mature visual system circuitry during sensitive periods and the visual system exhibits substantial plasticity while facing deprivation. The mechanisms that underlie the environmental regulation of visual system development and plasticity are of great interest but need further exploration. Here, we investigated a unique sample of human infants who experienced initial stage blindness (beginning at birth and lasting for 2-8 months) before the removal of bilateral cataracts. Retinal thickness (RT), axial length (AL), refractive status, visual grating acuity and genetic integrity were recorded during the preoperative period or at surgery and then during follow-up. The results showed that the development of the retina is malleable and associated with external environmental influences. Our work supported that the retina might play critical roles in the development of the experience-dependent visual system and its malleability might partly contribute to the sensitive period plasticity.

Keywords: Visual system development; critical period; plasticity; retina malleability.

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / etiology
  • Blindness / pathology
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Cataract / complications
  • Cataract / congenital*
  • Cataract Extraction
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Refraction, Ocular / physiology
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retina / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / growth & development*
  • Visual Pathways / physiopathology