Opposing effects of atropine and timolol on the color and luminance emmetropization mechanisms in chicks

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This study analyzed the luminance and color emmetropization response in chicks treated with the nonselective parasympathetic antagonist atropine and the sympathetic β-receptor blocker timolol.

Chicks were binocularly exposed (8 h/day) for 4 days to one of three illumination conditions: 2 Hz sinusoidal luminance flicker, 2 Hz sinusoidal blue/yellow color flicker, or steady light (mean 680 lux). Atropine experiments involved monocular daily injections of either 20 μl of atropine (18 nmol) or 20 μl of phosphate-buffered saline. Timolol experiments involved monocular daily applications of 2 drops of 0.5% timolol or 2 drops of distilled H2O. Changes in the experimental eye were compared with those in the fellow eye after correction for the effects of saline/water treatments.

Atropine caused a reduction in axial length with both luminance flicker (−0.078 ± 0.021 mm) and color flicker (−0.054 ± 0.017 mm), and a reduction in vitreous chamber depth with luminance flicker (−0.095 ± 0.023 mm), evoking a hyperopic shift in refraction (3.40 ± 1.77 D). Timolol produced an increase in axial length with luminance flicker (0.045 ± 0.030 mm) and a myopic shift in refraction (−4.07 ± 0.92 D), while color flicker caused a significant decrease in axial length (−0.046 ± 0.017 mm) that was associated with choroidal thinning (−0.046 ± 0.015 mm).

The opposing effects on growth and refraction seen with atropine and timolol suggest a balancing mechanism between the parasympathetic and β-receptor mediated sympathetic system through stimulation of the retina with luminance and color contrast.

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