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Vanessa Harrar, Laurent Elkrief, Joseph Bouskila, Ryan Kucera, Anders Fink-Jensen, Jean-François Bouchard, Roberta Palmour, Maurice Ptito; Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on the Visual System of Monkeys Measured at Different Stages of Development. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(14):6282-6291. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.17-22181.
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Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a developmental disease characterized by behavioral problems and physical defects including malformations of the eye and associated optical defects. How these malformations affect retinal functioning is not well known, although animal models have suggested that scotopic vision is particularly deficient. Age is also known to affect scotopic vision. Here, we determined the combined effects of age and fetal alcohol exposure (FAE) on retinal function using full-field electroretinograms (ERGs) in monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus).
ERGs were recorded in monkeys aged 3- to 12-years old, at multiple flash intensities under scotopic and photopic conditions, and functions were fit to the amplitudes of the a- and b-waves.
We found that both age and alcohol exposure affected ERGs. In photopic ERGs, amplitudes increased with age, and were higher in FAEs than controls, for data related to the OFF- and ON-pathways. In scotopic ERGs, amplitudes were decreased in young FAE compared with age-matched controls but only for the rod-dominated responses, while at brighter flashes, alcohol exposure led to an increase in the amplitude of the a- and b-waves.
The ERGs from the FAE animals closely resembled the data from the older sucrose-control monkeys. This suggests that the FAE monkey retina ages more quickly than the control monkeys. This large sample of nonhuman primates, with carefully monitored ethanol exposure, demonstrates the critical interplay between age and alcohol when assessing the integrity of the retina. We suggest that ERGs might be an important adjunct to diagnosing human FASD.
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