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With the billions of neurons that make up the human brain, it is no wonder it is the one part of our bodies that researchers will openly admit they are still constantly learning about.

And research shows that the brain’s visual processing center which was previously thought to have stopped developing in early childhood years, apparently continues well into adulthood.

A 2018 study challenges the old belief by suggesting that our vision actually develops until the middle of our lives. 

The old consensus was that the ‘primary visual cortex’, otherwise known as the visual-processing part of the brain, stops developing when a child turned 5 or 6 years of age.

Researchers determined that the visual cortex actually matures and develops gradually through 5 different stages until a person reaches approximately 36 years of age (give or take 4 ½ years).  They found that some of the ‘glutamatergic proteins’ develop until the late years of childhood, but others actually continue to develop until around the time that humans turn 40.

So, you may be asking yourself, why does this matter?

People who have what we call a “lazy eye” (caused by the eye disorder amblyopia”) are significantly impacted by this revelation.

In the United States, 2 to 3 out of 100 children are affected by amblyopia (“lazy eye”) and the data from this new study impacts these patients mostly because amblyopia is currently only with corrective therapies during childhood.  Adults with amblyopia were usually not treated as it has been medically considered pointless, since their visual cortex was thought not to be responsive to treatment anymore since it was not moldable.  This new research shares that “more brain areas are more flexible and responsive to experience-dependent plasticity than previously thought.”

So now that we know that visual development happens in children and does not remain stagnant the rest of our lives, amblyopia patients may have treatment options post childhood.

We love to share any eye news with our followers especially when groundbreaking research changes a longstanding medical belief.  Our doctors work with amblyopia or “lazy eye” patients all the time, and have helped them for years. We typically are able to help these patients with their cataracts and refractive errors.  While we cannot promise perfect vision to everyone, “better” is “better”!  If you or a loved one has any questions or would like to see what your options are, please call our office at 713-626-5544.