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Paul Zerr, José Pablo Ossandón, Idris Shareef, Stefan Van der Stigchel, Ramesh Kekunnaya, Brigitte Röder; Successful visually guided eye movements following sight restoration after congenital cataracts. Journal of Vision 2020;20(7):3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.7.3.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Sensitive periods have previously been identified for several human visual system functions. Yet, it is unknown to what degree the development of visually guided oculomotor control depends on early visual experience—for example, whether and to what degree humans whose sight was restored after a transient period of congenital visual deprivation are able to conduct visually guided eye movements. In the present study, we developed new calibration and analysis techniques for eye tracking data contaminated with pervasive nystagmus, which is typical for this population. We investigated visually guided eye movements in sight recovery individuals with long periods of visual pattern deprivation (3–36 years) following birth due to congenital, dense, total, bilateral cataracts. As controls we assessed (1) individuals with nystagmus due to causes other than cataracts, (2) individuals with developmental cataracts after cataract removal, and (3) individuals with normal vision. Congenital cataract reversal individuals were able to perform visually guided gaze shifts, even when their blindness had lasted for decades. The typical extensive nystagmus of this group distorted eye movement trajectories, but measures of latency and accuracy were as expected from their prevailing nystagmus—that is, not worse than in the nystagmus control group. To the best of our knowledge, the present quantitative study is the first to investigate the characteristics of oculomotor control in congenital cataract reversal individuals, and it indicates a remarkable effectiveness of visually guided eye movements despite long-lasting periods of visual deprivation.
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