The effects of vigabatrin of the visual system

  • K.A. Robertson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis considers the visual electrophysiological effects of vigabatrin (an anti-epileptic drug, which acts by increasing the levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA on the retina of the eye compared to the concentric visual field defects which have been found associated with the drug. Flash and pattern ERG's, EOG's multifocal ERG's (VERIS), flash and pattern VEP's and visual fields were tested. Although VEP's have been shown not to be affected by vigabatrin, these were recorded to complete the testing.
Initially, of the eight vigabatrin patients with known visual field defects, 7 showed abnormally delayed 30Hz flicker a-wave latencies, 5 abnormally delayed 30Hz b-wave latencies and 6 abnormally low 30Hz amplitudes. Also 7 showed an abnormally prolonged latency of oscillatory potential 1 (OP1). The two patients taking vigabatrin at the time of testing showed low EOG Arden index values. The VERIS results correlated well with the severity of the visual field defects.
Following this finding, eleven healthy subjects received vigabatrin over a 10-day period. No changes were seen in the visual fields, however, the photopic ERG b-wave latency significantly increased (although not to abnormal values). A matched pairs study with eleven vigabatrin, patients and eleven epileptic patients, who had never taken vigabatrin supported the findings of abnormal 30Hz flicker b-wave and OP latencies associated with vigabatrin, again with the VERIS results correlating to the severity of the visual field defect.
The abnormal 30Hz flicker and VERIS responses indicate involvement of the cone photoreceptors and the OP's show an effect on the amacrine cells. The ERG increase in the photopic b-wave latency also suggests involvement of the bipolar cells, however, this effect and the reversible effect on the Arden index after cessation of the drug may be unrelated to the visual field defect.
To conclude this thesis, a field specific VEP stimulus was developed to assess the retinal function in the peripheral field of paediatric patients. It comprises of a dartboard stimulus with a central 0-5 degree black and white chequered stimulus, a blank 5-30 degree annulus and a 30-60 degree peripheral chequered stimulus. When optimised on four vigabatrin patients it was found that no peripheral response can be evoked with a field loss exceeding 30-35 degrees. Co-operation was found to be successful in children as young as four years old.
Date of AwardMar 2001
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGraham F.A. Harding (Supervisor)


  • vigabatrin
  • visual system

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