The University of Auckland Clinics

Useful links and articles

Because we are at the cutting edge of vision science and research, we have access to plenty of information that you may find useful.

Drug may heal injured brains (NZ Herald, 8 october 2009)

Many parents will have noticed the way a child's brain seems more ready to adapt than an adult's. What they probably do not suspect is that the way to catch up could be a mild dose of anti-depressants. Starting early next year, researchers at the University of Auckland will test whether mild doses of Prozac can make an adult's brain more open to healing and learning. The research will use carefully vetted, healthy adults and is not intended to touch on depression. The aim is to find out whether Prozac could help adults recover from strokes and brain injuries, and take advantage of therapies that were assumed to work only on children. Fluoxetine (Prozac's scientific name) has been shown to add flexibility to the brains of adult mice.

Now Drs Ben Thompson and Cathy Stinear of Auckland University have won a $300,000 Marsden Fund research grant to see if it works on humans. They will begin by testing its effectiveness at healing "lazy eye" - a common visual problem caused when one eye is weaker or points in a slightly different direction from the other.
Dr Thompson, of the University's Department of Optometry and Vision Science, said lazy eye was a good test case because the problem was usually fixed in the brain after a certain age - in fact it was considered untreatable once a child reached 7 years old.

When a person has amblyopia, or lazy eye, the brain adapts by favouring images from the good eye, often becoming so set in its ways that sight in the weaker eye does not return even after the underlying problem is fixed. "The brain is not sufficiently plastic [able to change] to allow recovery of function in the lazy eye," said Dr Thompson. He explained: "As we get older, our brains become progressively less able to change. "During childhood, the brain is actually quite plastic and can adapt to a whole range of different problems ... and is very receptive to learning new skills. "But as we get older, it seems our brains take on more of a fixed state."
Dr Thompson said the lack of flexibility made it much harder for adults to recover from brain damage or disorders where the brain had developed abnormally. He was hopeful Prozac would boost the rate of learning.
"It is a really good way of looking at whether fluoxetine drugs can boost plasticity. The theory would be that therapies that work in children but don't work in adults could work in adults if we can increase brain plasticity," he said.

NZ-designed contact lens slows myopia progression

Research undertaken in the Department of Optometry and Vision Science has led to the commercialisation of a daily disposable soft contact lens designed to correct vision and at the same time slow the progression of myopia in children and teenagers. Designed by Dr.John Phillips, the lens, named MiSight, is the first soft contact lens available commercially to inhibit myopia progression. Manufactured by Coopervision it has recently been launched in Hong Kong, the hub of Asia.

Myopia has become a major public health issue in many parts of the world, with the incidence of myopia in children at over 80% in some Asian countries. Retinal degeneration associated with the abnormal elongation of the eye in myopia is already the major cause of blindness in these countries.

MiSight, a daily disposable contact lens, uses ActivControl Technology which results in a clear central foveal image, while the peripheral treatment zones of the lens create myopic retinal defocus that slows the rate at which the eye elongates and thus slows the progression of myopia.