But this maturation can go awry when inputs from the two eyes are out of balance; as a result of a cataract in one eye, for example, or a misalignment of the two eyes. When this happens, the connections from one eye fail to form correctly, and vision through that eye is impaired.
Even if surgery is carried out to correct the underlying cause, the changes to the brain’s visual system persist.
To correct the disorder, ophthalmologists typically apply a patch or a drug called atropine to the stronger eye, forcing the child to use their weaker eye.
However, the effectiveness of this procedure is limited by poor compliance and variable outcomes. Additionally, if the amblyopia is severe, this treatment is ineffective if initiated after age 10. This presents a particular problem in developing countries, where there is often little or no early years health screening.
Now, in a paper to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers in the Bear Lab at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT and the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Canada, describe a novel technique to restore visual acuity in animals with amblyopia, by temporarily inactivating their retinas using an anesthetic.