Deprivation Amblyopia and the "Critical Period"

Several investigators of the IDDRC (Duffy, Snodgrass, Burchfiel, Nature, 1976) showed that the GABA antagonist, bicuculline, can reverse the inhibition of a significant percentage of the inactive nerve cells in the visual cortex in an experimental model of amblyopia. This study revealed that these inactive cells were undergoing active inhibition that could be reversed. The ability to reverse this inhibition provided avenues for developing therapies for treating amblyopia and possibly other neurologic disorders. These finding may be relevant to the understanding of "critical periods" of neuronal plasticity. Related studies of neurophysiological development and plasticity continue in the current IDDRC both in the Basic Neuroscience Program (Benowitz and Macklis) and in the Clinical/Translational Neuroscience Program (Als). The work of a newly recruited member of the Children’s Hospital Neurobiology Program, Dr. Takao Hensch, focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate critical periods in the visual cortex.  As a future IDDRC investigator, we anticipate that Dr. Hensch will make substantial contributions to this research area in the future.