Selective degeneration of optic nerve fibres in the cat produced by a pressure block

J Physiol. 1986 Jul:376:461-76. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1986.sp016164.


Using a technique described previously, we have applied pressure to the optic nerve of a cat sufficient to cause conduction block of the t1 response (the response of the Y optic nerve fibres). A greater pressure, usually sufficient to cause a transient block of the t2 response (the response of the X fibres), leads to degeneration of the Y axons caudal to the block. This is demonstrated by the disappearance of the t1 response in this region after 4-5 days and by the presence in electron micrographs of degenerating large (Y) fibres. Some small fibres also show degeneration, but the medium (X) fibres are largely spared. The time course of loss of response in the Y fibres is similar whether the loss is due to a pressure block or to enucleation, suggesting that the pressure block as used by us causes a disruption of the axon. If the pressure is great enough to block part of the t2 response (X fibres) there is also a similarity in time course of loss of response to that following enucleation. Both for the enucleated and the pressure-blocked cat the t2 response fails about 1 day before the t1 response. This is in apparent disagreement with the morphological findings in the literature, confirmed here, indicating an earlier degeneration of the larger fibres. The post-synaptic response in the lateral geniculate nucleus to the t1 input (the r1 response) also fails about 1 day before the t1 response. In the visual cortex the loss of the r1 response reveals more clearly than is normally possible an r2 response, the response of the X optic radiation fibres. The response in the optic nerve or tract to a bright flash of light is dominated by the response of the Y fibres. When these are blocked the response is greatly reduced.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cats
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Optic Nerve / physiology*
  • Optic Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Pressure
  • Time Factors