In chicks, the temporal response characteristics to form deprivation and to spectacle lens wear (myopic and hyperopic defocus) show essential differences, suggesting that the emmetropization system “weights” the visual signals differently. To further explore how the eye integrates opposing visual signals, we examined the responses to myopic defocus induced by prior form deprivation vs. that induced by positive spectacle lenses, in both cases alternating with form deprivation.
Three experimental paradigms were used: 1) Form deprivation was induced by monocular occluders for 7 days. Over the subsequent 7 days, the occluders were removed daily for 12 hours (n = 13), 4 hours (n = 7), 2 hours (n = 7), or 0 hours (n = 6). 2) Birds were form-deprived on day 12. Over the subsequent 7 days, occluders were replaced with a +10 D lens for 2 hours per day (n = 13). 3) Starting at day 11, a +10 D lens was placed over one eye for 2 hours (n = 13), 3 hours (n = 5), or 6 hours (n = 10) per day and were otherwise untreated. Ocular dimensions were measured with high-frequency A-scan ultrasonography; refractive errors were measured by streak retinoscopy at various intervals.
In recovering eyes, 2 hours per day of myopic defocus was as effective as 12 hours at inducing refractive and axial recovery (change in refractive error: +10 D vs. +13 D, respectively). By contrast, 2 hours of lens-induced defocus (alternating with form deprivation) was not sufficient to induce refractive or axial compensation (change in refractive error: -1.7 D). When myopic defocus alternated with unrestricted vision, 6 hours per day were sufficient to induce nearly full compensation (2 hours vs. 6 hours: 4.4 D vs. 8.2 D; p < 0.0005). Choroids showed rapid increases in thickness to the daily episodes of myopic defocus; these resulted in “long-term” thickness changes in recovering eyes and eyes wearing lenses for 3 or 6 hours per day.
The response to myopic defocus induced by prior form deprivation is more robust than the response induced by positive lenses, suggesting that the underlying mechanisms differ. Presumably, this difference is related to the size of the eye at the onset. Compensatory decreases in growth rate occur without full compensatory choroidal thickening.