The period of susceptibility to the physiological effects of unilateral eye closure in kittens

J Physiol. 1970 Feb;206(2):419-36. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1970.sp009022.


1. Kittens were visually deprived by suturing the lids of the right eye for various periods of time at different ages. Recordings were subsequently made from the striate cortex, and responses from the two eyes compared. As previously reported, monocular eye closure during the first few months of life causes a sharp decline in the number of cells that can be influenced by the previously closed eye.2. Susceptibility to the effects of eye closure begins suddenly near the start of the fourth week, remains high until some time between the sixth and eighth weeks, and then declines, disappearing finally around the end of the third month. Monocular closure for over a year in an adult cat produces no detectable effects.3. During the period of high susceptibility in the fourth and fifth weeks eye closure for as little as 3-4 days leads to a sharp decline in the number of cells that can be driven from both eyes, as well as an over-all decline in the relative influence of the previously closed eye. A 6-day closure is enough to give a reduction in the number of cells that can be driven by the closed eye to a fraction of the normal. The physiological picture is similar to that following a 3-month monocular deprivation from birth, in which the proportion of cells the eye can influence drops from 85 to about 7%.4. Cells of the lateral geniculate receiving input from a deprived eye are noticeably smaller and paler to Nissl stain following 3 or 6 days' deprivation during the fourth week.5. Following 3 months of monocular deprivation, opening the eye for up to 5 yr produces only a very limited recovery in the cortical physiology, and no obvious recovery of the geniculate atrophy, even though behaviourally there is some return of vision in the deprived eye. Closing the normal eye, though necessary for behavioural recovery, has no detectable effect on the cortical physiology. The amount of possible recovery in the striate cortex is probably no greater if the period of eye closure is limited to weeks, but after a 5-week closure there is a definite enhancement of the recovery, even though it is far from complete.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cats