Age-related changes in the dynamics of human albino visual pathways


: Dr Graham E. Holder, as above.


A deficiency of melanin in the retinal pigment epithelium, which regulates the development of neural retina, leads to chiasmal misrouting such that the uncrossed pathway (to the ipsilateral hemisphere) is reduced relative to the crossed pathway (to the contralateral hemisphere). This study examines age-related changes in the flash and pattern appearance visual evoked potentials (VEP) of human albinos. Scalp recorded cortical VEPs to flash (FVEP) and pattern appearance stimulation were recorded in 58 albino (8 months to 60 years) and 34 normal subjects (4–55 years). VEPs were analysed by amplitude and latency. The contralateral hemisphere FVEP amplitude decreased with age in albino subjects, as in both hemispheres in normals. However, the ipsilateral hemisphere FVEP amplitude was significantly lower in young albino subjects, initially giving a marked interhemispheric asymmetry, but this normalized with age. Significant interhemispheric FVEP latency asymmetries were not observed. The contralateral pattern appearance VEP latency in albino subjects decreased with age, as in both hemispheres in normals; the ipsilateral latency increased significantly with age. Significant interhemispheric pattern appearance VEP amplitude asymmetries were not observed. These novel and unexpected observations indicate significant age-related changes in the retinocortical pathways of the human albino. These changes have implications for our understanding of development and plasticity of the central visual pathways.