Richards BA, van Rheede JJ and Akerman CJ, “Visuospatial information in the retinotectal system of xenopus before correct image formation by the developing eye”, Developmental Neurobiology, 72(4), 507-519

The retinotectal pathway of Xenopus laevis is a well-established experimental model for studying activity-dependent processes during visual system development. Such processes can be guided by stimulus-evoked activity patterns, which depend on the refractive characteristics of the eye. Previous work has shown that many animals are hyperopic at early developmental stages due to immature refractive properties. Whether this is also the case for Xenopus laevis is unknown. Here, we measure the focal length of the lens and the size of the eye of embryos at different stages and find that Xenopus laevis exhibits a similar shift from hyperopia to emmetropia. At early stages, immediately after innervation of the tectum by the optic nerve, Xenopus embryos are hyperopic. Soon afterwards the focal length of the lens decreases and the eye converges to a state of emmetropia. Despite being hyperopic we find that some visuospatial information is available to the young circuit. Calculations based on the optical properties of the eye show that even when the animals are hyperopic the blurred retinal image provides a crude spatial resolution. Furthermore, using whole-cell recordings in the optic tectum combined with visual stimulation through the intact eye, we show that tectal neurons in hyperopic embryos have spatially restricted glutamatergic receptive fields. Our data demonstrate that Xenopus laevis eyes undergo a process of developmental emmetropization, and suggest that despite an initial stage of suboptimal image formation there is potentially enough information to guide activity-dependent refinements of the retinotectal pathway from the onset of vision.

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