Amblyopia affects about four percent of the general population and is thought to develop when the two eyes do not see equally well in early life, as connections from the eyes to visual areas in the brain are still being refined. Left untreated, that imbalance of vision can lead to permanent vision loss, reports Science Daily.
Restoring vision might sometimes be as simple as turning out the lights.
That's according to a study reported Feb 14 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, in which researchers examined kittens with a visual impairment known as amblyopia before and after they spent 10 days in complete darkness.
Researchers Kevin Duffy and Donald Mitchell of Dalhousie University in Canada believe that exposure to darkness causes some parts of the visual system to revert to an early stage in development, when there is greater flexibility.
"There may be ways to increase brain plasticity and recover from disorders such as amblyopia without drug intervention," Duffy says. "Immersion in total darkness seems to reset the visual brain to enable remarkable recovery."