Eyeing up the Future of the Pupillary Light Reflex in Neurodiagnostics

Diagnostics (Basel). 2018 Mar 13;8(1):19. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics8010019.


The pupillary light reflex (PLR) describes the constriction and subsequent dilation of the pupil in response to light as a result of the antagonistic actions of the iris sphincter and dilator muscles. Since these muscles are innervated by the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, respectively, different parameters of the PLR can be used as indicators for either sympathetic or parasympathetic modulation. Thus, the PLR provides an important metric of autonomic nervous system function that has been exploited for a wide range of clinical applications. Measurement of the PLR using dynamic pupillometry is now an established quantitative, non-invasive tool in assessment of traumatic head injuries. This review examines the more recent application of dynamic pupillometry as a diagnostic tool for a wide range of clinical conditions, varying from neurodegenerative disease to exposure to toxic chemicals, as well as its potential in the non-invasive diagnosis of infectious disease.

Keywords: acetylcholine; autism; chemicals; cholinergic system; infection; neurodegeneration; pupillometry; recreational drugs; toxins; trauma.

Publication types

  • Review