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Clinical review of retinotopy
  1. Jenny Nij Bijvank1,
  2. Lucas Maillette de Buy Wenniger2,
  3. Pim de Graaf2,3,
  4. Axel Petzold1,4
  1. 1 Departments of Ophthalmology and Neurology, Expertise Centre Neuro-ophthalmology, Amsterdam UMC Locatie VUmc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  3. 3 Department of Neurology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4 Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road; The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Axel Petzold, Department of Neurology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1081 HZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands; a.petzold{at}


Two observations made 29 years apart are the cornerstones of this review on the contributions of Dr Gordon T. Plant to understanding pathology affecting the optic nerve. The first observation laid the anatomical basis in 1990 for the interpretation of optical coherence tomography (OCT) findings in 2009. Retinal OCT offers clinicians detailed in vivo structural imaging of individual retinal layers. This has led to novel observations which were impossible to make using ophthalmoscopy. The technique also helps to re-introduce the anatomically grounded concept of retinotopy to clinical practise. This review employs illustrations of the anatomical basis for retinotopy through detailed translational histological studies and multimodal brain-eye imaging studies. The paths of the prelaminar and postlaminar axons forming the optic nerve and their postsynaptic path from the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus to the primary visual cortex in humans are described. With the mapped neuroanatomy in mind we use OCT-MRI pairings to discuss the patterns of neurodegeneration in eye and brain that are a consequence of the hard wired retinotopy: anterograde and retrograde axonal degeneration which can, within the visual system, propagate trans-synaptically. The technical advances of OCT and MRI for the first time enable us to trace axonal degeneration through the entire visual system at spectacular resolution. In conclusion, the neuroanatomical insights provided by the combination of OCT and MRI allows us to separate incidental findings from sinister pathology and provides new opportunities to tailor and monitor novel neuroprotective strategies.

  • degeneration
  • field of vision
  • immunology
  • macula
  • optic nerve

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  • JNB and LMdBW contributed equally.

  • Contributors AP presented at the Festschrift of GTP and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. JNB, LMdBW and PdG all contributed images, text and references to this review. All coauthors have revised the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.