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The interdependence of the development of the eye and oculomotor system during embryogenesis is currently unclear. The occurrence of clinical anophthalmia, where the globe fails to develop, permits us to study the effects this has on the development of the complex neuromuscular system controlling eye movements. In this study, we use very high-resolution T2-weighted imaging in five anophthalmic subjects to visualize the extraocular muscles and the cranial nerves that innervate them. The subjects differed in the presence or absence of the optic nerve, the abducens nerve, and the extraocular muscles, reflecting differences in the underlying disruption to the eye's morphogenetic pathway. The oculomotor nerve was present in all anophthalmic subjects and only slightly reduced in size compared to measurements in sighted controls. As might be expected, the presence of rudimentary eye-like structures in the socket appeared to correlate with development and persistence of the extraocular muscles in some cases. Our study supports in part the concept of an initial independence of muscle development, with its maintenance subject to the presence of these eye-like structures.

Original publication




Journal article


Vis Neurosci

Publication Date





193 - 202


Abducens Nerve, Adult, Anophthalmos, Brain Stem, Cranial Nerves, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Oculomotor Muscles, Oculomotor Nerve, Optic Nerve, Orbit, Trigeminal Nerve, Young Adult