Jennifer Steeves, Psychology Department, York University
Title: Living with One Eye: Plasticity in Visual and Auditory Systems
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2013-2014
Abstract: The visual system is not fully mature at birth and thus, is vulnerable to abnormal visual input during postnatal development. There is a large body of research on the effects of monocular deprivation on the developing visual system from studies of people who have experienced a misaligned eye (strabismus), a lazy eye (amblyopia), or a blurry lens (congenital cataract) early in life. The majority of this research documents various negative effects of these alterations in visual input on visual function and their underlying neural substrates. In our lab however, we have been studying a group of individuals with a complete form of early monocular deprivation from eye enucleation which shows a different pattern of results. One might assume that the loss of one eye early in life would also be accompanied by poor visual ability of the remaining intact functioning eye later in life. This is not always the case and, somehow, the visual brain is able to compensate for the loss of binocularity. In this talk I will review changes in vision and hearing in people with one eye, and I will discuss the underlying neural substrates associated with these changes. Our lab has shown that in general, people who have lost one eye during infancy are able to detect, recognize, and discriminate shapes in their environment just as well as, and sometimes better than, individuals with both eyes still intact. On the other hand, we have demonstrated that people with one eye have minor deficits in perceiving motion in their environment, presumably due to the lack of binocularity from losing an eye. We recently have shown changes in the anatomy of visual brain regions, particularly in the LGN following the loss of an eye. Lastly, we also demonstrate some advantageous alterations to hearing ability in people with one eye in support of crossmodal plasticity. In short, the loss of one eye does not impair daily function, but rather the brain is able to rewire itself to allow for full advantage of remaining vision and other senses.
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