A quantitative analysis of the retinofugal projections in congenital and late-onset blindness

Maurice Ptito, Samuel Paré, Laurence Dricot, Carlo Cavaliere, Francesco Tomaiuolo, Ron Kupers

8 Citationer (Scopus)


Vision loss early in life has dramatic consequences on the organization of the visual system and hence on structural plasticity of its remnant components. Most of the studies on the anatomical changes in the brain following visual deprivation have focused on the re-organization of the visual cortex and its afferent and efferent projections. In this study, we performed a quantitative analysis of the volume and size of the optic chiasm, optic nerve, optic tract and the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), the retino recipient thalamic nucleus. Analysis was carried out on structural T1-weighted MRIs from 22 congenitally blind (CB), 14 late blind (LB) and 29 age -and sex-matched sighted control (SC) subjects. We manually segmented the optic nerve, optic chiasm and optic tract, while LGN volumes were extracted using in-house software. We also measured voxel intensity of optic nerve, optic chiasm and optic tract. Mean volumes of the optic nerve, optic tract and optic chiasm were reduced by 50 to 60% in both CB and LB participants. No significant differences were found between the congenitally and late-onset blind participants for any of the measures. Our data further revealed reduced white matter voxel intensities in optic nerve, optic chiasm and optic tract in blind compared to sighted participants, suggesting decreased myelin content in the atrophied white matter. The LGN was reduced by 50% and 44% in CB and LB, respectively. In LB, optic nerve volume correlated negatively with the blindness duration index; no such correlation was found for optic chiasm, optic tract and LGN. The observation that despite the absence of visual input about half of the subcortical retinofugal projections are structurally preserved raises the question of their functional role. One possibility is that the surviving fibers play a role in the maintenance of circadian rhythms in the blind through the intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells.

TidsskriftNeuroImage. Clinical
StatusUdgivet - 2021


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