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Visual Control of Eye Growth Plasticity of Saccadic Eye Movements
myopia crew 2011 saccadistas
We study how the growth of the eye is controlled by its visual input, a topic relevant to understanding why so many schoolchildren become myopic. At birth, most eyes are either too short or too long for the focal length of the optics of the eye, causing the eye to be either farsighted or nearsighted, respectively. The eye uses vision to adjust its growth to correct this mismatch. Thus, if images are focused behind the retina because the eye has not elongated enough (far-sightedness), the eye grows faster; if images are focused in front of the retina (myopia or nearsightedness), the opposite occurs.  The visual basis of this correction is shown by having an animal wear spectacle lenses, thus artificially making the eye myopic or far-sighted, which causes the eye to rapidly compensate by changing its rate of growth.  We are asking: How does the eye know which way to grow to compensate for the defocus? What molecular signals transduce the visual information into the control of eye growth?

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Saccades are the fast eye movements we use in looking around the world. These saccadic eye-movements are kept accurate by saccadic adapation, a simple form of learning that tracks whether the eyes consistently overshoot or undershoot their intended target. We study how this learning works and how it relates to other types of learning.

We also study the relation of attention to eye movements in humans. Shifting one’s attention from one object to another is a mental phenomenon that can be studied by the methods of neuroscience because it activates the same brain areas as an eye movement.

When one looks around one’s surroundings, objects attract first one’s attention and then one’s eyes. Are these two separate processes, a mental one and a motoric one, or do the eyes necessarily go to the locus of attention?


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