You are viewing AANS Neurosurgeon Volume 25, Number 4, 2016. View our current issue, Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 25, Number 4, 2016

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A No-brainer? Mouse Eyes Constrict to Light Without Direct Link to the Brain

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Experimenting with mice, neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine report new evidence that the eye’s iris in many lower mammals directly senses light and causes the pupil to constrict without involving the brain. In a report, the researchers detail how the pupils in a mouse’s eyes get smaller when the animal is moved from a dark to a lit room even when the nerve connections between the animal’s brain and eyes are severed. Their findings prove that mouse eyes have a photosensitive function built directly into the ring of sphincter muscle surrounding the pupil. The mammalian eye adapts to changing light conditions by constricting or enlarging the pupil. That action, referred to as pupillary light reflex, is controlled by opposing dilator and sphincter muscles in the iris. “The traditional view of this reflex is that light triggers nerve signals traveling from the eye’s retina to the brain, thereby activating returning nerve signals, relayed by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, that make the sphincter muscle contract and constrict the pupil,” says King-Wai Yau, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an author of the report.

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