Altered anterior visual system development following early monocular enucleation
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Purpose Retinoblastoma is a rare eye cancer that generally occurs before 5 years of age and often results in enucleation (surgical removal) of the cancerous eye. In the present study, we sought to determine the consequences of early monocular enucleation on the morphological development of the anterior visual pathway including the optic chiasm and lateral geniculate nucleus. Methods A group of adults who had one eye enucleated early in life due to retinoblastoma was compared to binocularly intact controls. Although structural changes have previously been reported in late enucleation, we also collected data from one late enucleated participant to compare to our early enucleated participants. Measurements of the optic nerves, optic chiasm, optic tracts and lateral geniculate nuclei were evaluated from T1 weighted and proton density weighted images collected from each participant. Results The early monocular enucleation group exhibited overall degeneration of the anterior visual system compared to controls. Surprisingly, however, optic tract diameter and geniculate volume decreases were less severe contralateral to the remaining eye. Consistent with previous research, the late enucleated participant showed no asymmetry and significantly larger volume decreases in both geniculate nuclei compared to controls. Conclusions The novel finding of an asymmetry in morphology of the anterior visual system following long-term survival from early monocular enucleation indicates altered postnatal visual development. Possible mechanisms behind this altered development include recruitment of deafferented cells by crossing nasal fibres and/or geniculate cell retention via feedback from primary visual cortex. These data highlight the importance of balanced binocular input during postnatal maturation for typical anterior visual system morphology.