Central Connections of the Lacrimal Functional Unit

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To study the contribution of each eye to the reflex tear response, after unilateral and bilateral topical anesthesia.


A closed-eye, modified Schirmer test was performed bilaterally in 8 normal subjects, in a controlled environment chamber set to 23°C, 45% relative humidity, and 0.08 m/s airflow. Eye drops were instilled into each eye 10 minutes before the Schirmer test. Experiments were as follows: 1) bilateral saline (control), 2) unilateral anesthesia (ipsilateral anesthetic; contralateral saline), and 3) bilateral anesthesia.


There was no difference in between-eye wetting lengths in the saline control eyes (P = 0.394) or the bilaterally anesthetized eyes (P = 0.171). The wetting length was reduced in both eyes after bilateral anesthesia compared with saline controls (P = 0.001; P ≤ 0.0005). After unilateral anesthesia, the wetting length was reduced in the anesthetized eye compared with its saline control by 51.4% (P ≤ 0.0005) and compared with its fellow, unanesthetized eye (P = 0.005). The fellow eye value was also reduced compared with its saline control (P = 0.06).


The wetting length was reduced by topical anesthesia, when instilled bilaterally and ipsilaterally. The latter response implies an ipsilateral, reflex sensory drive to lacrimal secretion. In the unanesthetized fellow eye, the reduction compared with its saline control was not quite significant. This implies a relative lack of central, sensory, reflex cross-innervation, although the possibility cannot entirely be ruled out. These results are relevant to the possibility of reflex lacrimal compensation from a normal fellow eye, in cases of unilateral corneal anesthesia.

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