Dynamics of active emmetropisation in young chicks – influence of sign and magnitude of imposed defocus


  • Josh Wallman—posthumous publication



Young eyes compensate for the defocus imposed by spectacle lenses by changing their rate of elongation and their choroidal thickness, bringing their refractive status back to the pre-lens condition. We asked whether the initial rate of change either in the ocular components or in refraction is a function of the power of the lenses worn, a result that would be consistent with the existence of a proportional controller mechanism.


Two separate studies were conducted; both tracked changes in refractive errors and ocular dimensions. Study A: To study the effects of lens power and sign, young chicks were tracked for 4 days after they were fitted with positive (+5, +10 or +15 D) or negative (−5, −10, −15 D) lenses over one eye. In another experiment, biometric changes to plano, +1, +2 and +3 D lenses were tracked over a 24 h treatment period. Study B: Normal emmetropisation was tracked from hatching to 6 days of age and then a defocusing lens, either +6 D or −7 D, was fitted over one eye and additional biometric data collected after 48 h.


In study A, animals treated with positive lenses (+5, +10 or +15 D) showed statistical similar initial choroid responses, with a mean thickening 24 μm h−1 over the first 5 h. Likewise, with the low power positive lenses, a statistically similar magnitude of choroidal thickening was observed across groups (+1 D: 46.0 ± 7.8 μm h−1; +2 D: 53.5 ± 9.9 μm h−1; +3 D 53.3 ± 24.1 μm h−1) in the first hour of lens wear compared to that of a plano control group. These similar rates of change in choroidal thickness indicate that the signalling response is binary in nature and not influenced by the magnitude of the myopic defocus. Treatments with −5, −10 and −15 D lenses induced statistically similar amounts of choroidal thinning, averaging −70 ± 15 μm after 5 h and −96 ± 45 μm after 24 h. Similar rates in inner axial length changes were also seen with these lens treatments until compensation was reached, once again indicating that the signalling response is not influenced by the magnitude of hyperopic defocus. In study B, after 48 h of +6 D lens treatment, the average refractive error and choroidal changes were found to be larger in magnitude than expected if perfect compensation had taken place, with a + 2.4 D overshoot in refractive compensation.


Taken together, our results with both weak and higher power positive lenses suggest that eye growth is guided more by the sign than by the magnitude of the defocus, and our results for higher power negative lenses support a similar conclusion. These behaviour patterns and the overshoot seen in Study B are more consistent with the behaviour of a bang-bang controller than a proportional controller.