Development of inner retinal function, evidenced by the pattern electroretinogram, in the rat

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Abstract

Though the rat is increasingly used as an animal model in ophthalmic research, including the study of glaucoma, little is known about age-related changes in its inner retinal function. The aim of this study was to evaluate these changes in the rat during the first 18 weeks of life. The pattern electroretinogram (PERG) was used to monitor inner retinal activity in 16 developing rats. In each animal, recordings were conducted at ages 3, 5, 7, 11, 14 and 18 weeks to assess age-related changes in function. Signals were evoked by five stimuli of progressively increasing check width (subtending 82–1312 arc minutes of visual angle) that were projected directly onto the fundus through a specially modified ophthalmoscope which allowed visual and manual control of stimulus quality. Poor signal:noise ratio prevented signal analysis at age 3 weeks. Subsequently, PERG amplitude increased significantly, up to 242% (depending on stimulus check width), during weeks 5–11. After peaking at 11 weeks, signal amplitude declined moderately. Signal latency mirrored that of amplitude, decreasing during the first 11 weeks, and then increasing steadily. Latency was not affected by stimulus check width. Age was highly correlated with P1 latency (R2 = 0.80) and moderately correlated with N2 latency (R2 = 0.52). Therefore, we propose that studies of inner retinal diseases (such as glaucoma) in the rat model should use age-matched controls, as electrophysiological results may be confounded by age-related changes. The rat PERG undergoes many of the age-related changes that have been reported in humans, and thus may serve as an animal model to study development of inner retinal function.

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