Uncomfortable sight from an ancient reflex of the eye

Reflexive system of the human eye also produces a conscious visua

The eyes are for seeing, but they have other important biological functions, including automatic visual reflexes that go on without awareness. The reflexive system of the human eye also produces a conscious, visual experience, according to a new study from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. The findings, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide insight into the excessive light sensitivity sometimes experienced by people with eye disease, migraine headaches and concussions.

The study addressed the properties of melanopsin, a blue-light sensitive protein in the eye that establishes the rhythm of the day-night cycle and the familiar constriction of the pupil to bright light. The researchers created a special pulse of light that stimulates only the melanopsin cells of the eye. They showed this light pulse to people and measured their pupil response and brain activity, as well as asked them what they saw. Remarkably, they found that people have brain activity and a visual experience in response to a light that is invisible to the parts of the eye normally used for seeing.

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

The eyes and ears team up to interpret the sights and sounds around us

Simply moving the eyes triggers the eardrums to move too, says a new study by Duke University neuroscientists.

The researchers found that keeping the head still but shifting the eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of any sounds.

Surprisingly, these eardrum vibrations start slightly before the eyes move, indicating that motion in the ears and the eyes are controlled by the same motor commands deep within the brain.

“It’s like the brain is saying, ‘I’m going to move the eyes, I better tell the eardrums, too,’” said Jennifer Groh, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

The findings, which were replicated in both humans and rhesus monkeys, provide new insight into how the brain coordinates what we see and what we hear. It may also lead to new understanding of hearing disorders, such as difficulty following a conversation in a crowded room.

From Bench To Bedside

Duke Eye Center’s Basic Science Research Led to Development of the First New Glaucoma Drug to be FDA-Approved in 20 Years

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new drug for the treatment of glaucoma that was developed based on basic research conducted at Duke Ophthalmology.

In December 2017, the FDA approved Rhopressa® (netarsudil ophthalmic solution 0.02%) for the reduction of elevated eye pressure in patients with glaucoma. Rhopressa is the first new glaucoma drug class to be FDA-approved in 20 years, and the first to target and inhibit Rho kinase as a way to lower intraocular pressure.

The journey from discovery to drug development is a prime example of the bench-to-bedside translational research and teamwork taking place daily at Duke Ophthalmology.

First Use of Cadaver Nerves to Repair Corneal Anesthesia Shows Promise

A new, minimally invasive procedure that replaces damaged corneal nerves with a donor nerve restores feeling in the cornea and halts progressive eye damage caused by a condition known as corneal anesthesia. The use of the donor nerve, an advance pioneered at Duke, may help people recover faster after surgery and could impact how other chronic eye conditions are treated.