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David J. Calkins; Age-Related Changes in the Visual Pathways: Blame It on the Axon. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2013;54(14):ORSF37-ORSF41. doi: 10.1167/iovs.13-12784.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The aging visual system is marked by a decline in some, but not all, key functions. Some of this decline is attributed to changes in the optics of the eye, but other aspects must have a neural basis. Across mammals, with aging there is remarkable persistence of central structures to which retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons project with little or no loss of neurons. Similarly, RGC bodies in the retina are subject to variable age-related loss, with most mammals showing none over time. In contrast, the RGC axon itself is highly vulnerable. Across species, the rate of axon loss in the optic nerve is related inversely to the total number of axons at maturity and lifespan. The result of this scaling is approximately a 40% total decline in axon number. Evidence suggests that the consistent vulnerability of RGC axons to aging arises from their high metabolic demand combined with diminishing resources. Thus, therapeutic interventions that conserve bioenergetics may have potential to abate age-related decline in visual function.
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