The theory and implications of the biaxial model of corneal birefringence

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PURPOSE: A theoretical model of biaxial optical anisotropy is derived and its structural, biomechanical and developmental implications are discussed with reference to known corneal anatomy. METHODS A concise review of the theory of optical crystallography is followed by the derivation of a theoretical model of the optical anisotropic properties of a dome of biaxial birefringent crystalline material. The model is then applied to parameters relevant to the biaxial model of human corneal birefringence.

RESULTS: Theoretical distributions of refractive indices and vibration directions for transmitted monochromatic light are derived for the central and paracentral zones of a model human cornea. Contours of equal refractive index (equirefringence curves) are found to have orthogonal confocal spheroconic geometry.

CONCLUSIONS: A novel model of corneal structure is proposed in which discrete uniaxial positive birefringent fibre-like elements conform to the derived spheroconic geometry. Biomechanical implications and the relationship of the birefringent elements to known corneal anatomy are discussed. The crystallographic conventions are proposed as a standard for further investigations of corneal birefringence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-46
Number of pages13
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Anisotropy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Birefringence
  • Cornea/physiology
  • Corneal Topography/methods
  • Crystallography/methods
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Refractometry


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