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Keywords:

  • cat;
  • critical period;
  • monocular deprivation;
  • plasticity;
  • vision;
  • visual acuity

Abstract

Based in part on deprivation studies, it is generally agreed that the development of vision and of the central visual pathways of higher mammals such as cats and primates is experience-dependent. Past deprivation experiments employed periods of exclusively abnormal early visual input. Because of the absence of any normal visual input, such studies indicate only the extremes to which the visual system can change in response to visually driven activity (i.e. its capabilities) rather than provide insight into the role of early visual input in normal development (i.e. what it actually does). We examined the possibility that certain visual input, i.e. normal concordant binocular vision, may be more efficacious than others with respect to its effects on the developing visual system and on vision. On a daily basis, one type of visual input, i.e. normal binocular experience (BE), was pitted against abnormal (monocular exposure, ME) input in order to see if one was more effective. We show that 2 h of daily normal concordant, but not discordant, BE outweighs or protects against as much as 5 h of daily abnormal input to permit the development of normal grating acuity and alignment accuracy in the two eyes. Further, we show that splitting the period of BE into two 1-h periods straddling the period of ME was ineffective, thereby indicating the 2 h of BE each day must be continuous to protect against the development of amblyopia.