To determine whether central communication of retinal signals is necessary for the development of an experimentally induced myopia, tree shrews were exposed to monocular deprivation (MD) while the action potentials of retinal cells in the deprived eye were blocked with intravitreally injected tetrodotoxin (TTX-MD animals). TTX injections (0.6 microgram in 3 microL) and MD began about 15 days after eye opening, at the start of the susceptible period for the development of lid-suture myopia. Six injections were given, one every second day to produce 12 days of MD and TTX-blockade. Control TTX animals (TTX-open) received TTX in one eye, but not MD, on the same injection schedule and were always found to be behaviorally unresponsive to visual stimuli through the injected eye indicating that TTX blocked central communication of action potentials. Other control animals received intravitreally injected saline in either an open eye (saline-open), or an MD eye (saline-MD). A sham-injected group (sham-inj-MD) received MD and all anesthetic and surgical manipulations except for penetration of the sclera. In all groups, one eye in each animal was an untreated control. Two effects were found. All MD groups, including the TTX-MD animals, developed a significant vitreous chamber elongation in the deprived eye, indicating that an experimental myopia developed despite ganglion cell blockade. Thus, retinal mechanisms in tree shrew can detect the presence of a degraded visual image and produce an experimental myopia that does not depend on the receipt of visual messages by central neural structures. In addition, eyes in which the sclera was punctured had smaller vitreous chamber depths than comparable uninjected eyes, indicating that puncturing the sclera reduced the normal elongation. These data suggest that forces within the eye normally contribute to its expansion and may be resisted by the choroid and/or the sclera.