A natural history of vision loss: Insight from evolution for human visual function

Alexandra A de Sousa, Orlin S Todorov, Michael J Proulx

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)
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Research on the origin of vision and vision loss in naturally "blind" animal species can reveal the tasks that vision fulfills and the brain's role in visual experience. Models that incorporate evolutionary history, natural variation in visual ability, and experimental manipulations can help disentangle visual ability at a superficial level from behaviors linked to vision but not solely reliant upon it, and could assist the translation of ophthalmological research in animal models to human treatments. To unravel the similarities between blind individuals and blind species, we review concepts of 'blindness' and its behavioral correlates across a range of species. We explore the ancestral emergence of vision in vertebrates, and the loss of vision in blind species with reference to an evolution-based classification scheme. We applied phylogenetic comparative methods to a mammalian tree to explore the evolution of visual acuity using ancestral state estimations. Future research into the natural history of vision loss could help elucidate the function of vision and inspire innovations in how to address vision loss in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104550
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date21 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


  • Animal models
  • Blindness
  • Evolution
  • Eye
  • Mammals
  • Neuroscience
  • Ophthalmology
  • Phylogenetics
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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