Grey and white matter changes in children with monocular amblyopia: voxel-based morphometry and diffusion tensor imaging study

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To investigate the potential morphological alterations of grey and white matter in monocular amblyopic children using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).


A total of 20 monocular amblyopic children and 20 age-matched controls were recruited. Whole-brain MRI scans were performed after a series of ophthalmologic exams. The imaging data were processed and two-sample t-tests were employed to identify group differences in grey matter volume (GMV), white matter volume (WMV) and fractional anisotropy (FA).


After image screening, there were 12 amblyopic participants and 15 normal controls qualified for the VBM analyses. For DTI analysis, 14 amblyopes and 14 controls were included. Compared to the normal controls, reduced GMVs were observed in the left inferior occipital gyrus, the bilateral parahippocampal gyrus and the left supramarginal/postcentral gyrus in the monocular amblyopic group, with the lingual gyrus presenting augmented GMV. Meanwhile, WMVs reduced in the left calcarine, the bilateral inferior frontal and the right precuneus areas, and growth in the WMVs was seen in the right cuneus, right middle occipital and left orbital frontal areas. Diminished FA values in optic radiation and increased FA in the left middle occipital area and right precuneus were detected in amblyopic patients.


In monocular amblyopia, cortices related to spatial vision underwent volume loss, which provided neuroanatomical evidence of stereoscopic defects. Additionally, white matter development was also hindered due to visual defects in amblyopes. Growth in the GMVs, WMVs and FA in the occipital lobe and precuneus may reflect a compensation effect by the unaffected eye in monocular amblyopia.

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