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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 568354, 13 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/568354
Review Article

Plasticity in the Human Visual Cortex: An Ophthalmology-Based Perspective

1Departamento de Oftalmologia, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra, 3000 Coimbra, Portugal
2Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Azinhaga de Santa Comba, 3000-548 Coimbra, Portugal
3Visual Neuroscience Laboratory, IBILI, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Azinhaga de Santa Comba, 3000-548 Coimbra, Portugal

Received 30 April 2013; Revised 5 August 2013; Accepted 19 August 2013

Academic Editor: Yoshiki Kaneoke

Copyright © 2013 Andreia Martins Rosa et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to reorganize the function and structure of its connections in response to changes in the environment. Adult human visual cortex shows several manifestations of plasticity, such as perceptual learning and adaptation, working under the top-down influence of attention. Plasticity results from the interplay of several mechanisms, including the GABAergic system, epigenetic factors, mitochondrial activity, and structural remodeling of synaptic connectivity. There is also a downside of plasticity, that is, maladaptive plasticity, in which there are behavioral losses resulting from plasticity changes in the human brain. Understanding plasticity mechanisms could have major implications in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases, such as retinal disorders, cataract and refractive surgery, amblyopia, and in the evaluation of surgical materials and techniques. Furthermore, eliciting plasticity could open new perspectives in the development of strategies that trigger plasticity for better medical and surgical outcomes.