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Prentice Award Lecture 2011: Removing the Brakes on Plasticity in the Amblyopic Brain

Levi, Dennis M.*

Optometry and Vision Science: June 2012 - Volume 89 - Issue 6 - p 827–838
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e318257a187
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ABSTRACT Experience-dependent plasticity is closely linked with the development of sensory function. Beyond this sensitive period, developmental plasticity is actively limited; however, new studies provide growing evidence for plasticity in the adult visual system. The amblyopic visual system is an excellent model for examining the “brakes” that limit recovery of function beyond the critical period. While amblyopia can often be reversed when treated early, conventional treatment is generally not undertaken in older children and adults. However, new clinical and experimental studies in both animals and humans provide evidence for neural plasticity beyond the critical period. The results suggest that perceptual learning and video game play may be effective in improving a range of visual performance measures and importantly the improvements may transfer to better visual acuity and stereopsis. These findings, along with the results of new clinical trials, suggest that it might be time to reconsider our notions about neural plasticity in amblyopia.


School of Optometry and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California.

Received January 20, 2012; accepted March 5, 2012.

Dennis M. Levi School of Optometry and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, California 94720-2020 e-mail:

© 2012 American Academy of Optometry