Classic studies of ocular dominance plasticity in early development showed that monocular deprivation suppresses the neural representation and visual function of the deprived eye. However, recent studies have shown that a short period of monocular deprivation (<3 h) in normal adult humans, shifts sensory eye dominance in favor of the deprived eye. How can these opposing effects be reconciled? Here we argue that there are two systems acting in opposition at different time scales. A fast acting, stabilizing, homeostatic system that rapidly decreases gain in the non-deprived eye or increases gain in the deprived eye, and a relatively sluggish system that shifts balance toward the non-deprived eye, in an effort to reduce input of little utility to active vision. If true, then continuous deprivation should produce a biphasic effect on interocular balance, first shifting balance away from the non-deprived eye, then towards it. Here we investigated the time course of the deprivation effect by monocularly depriving typical adults for 10 h and conducting tests of sensory eye balance at six intervening time points. Consistent with previous short-term deprivation work, we found shifts in sensory eye dominance away from the non-deprived eye up until approximately 5 h. We then observed a turning point, with balance shifting back towards the non-deprived eye, -, a biphasic effect. We argue that this turning point marks where the rapid homeostatic response saturates and is overtaken by the slower system responsible for suppressing monocular input of limited utility.
Keywords: Amblyopia; Contrast gain control; Monocular deprivation; Ocular dominance plasticity.
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