Response anisocoria in the pupillary light and darkness reflex

Chin An Wang, Leanne Tworzyanski, Jeff Huang, Douglas P. Munoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The pupil constricts or dilates in response to a luminance increase or decrease, and these transient pupillary responses are controlled by the parasympathetic and sympathetic pathways. Although pupillary responses of the two eyes are highly correlated, they are not always identical (referred to as anisocoria). For example, there are unequal direct and consensual pupillary constriction responses after an increase in luminance to one eye. While contraction anisocoria (i.e. constriction) has been demonstrated in the pupillary light reflex, it is not yet known if there is also dilation anisocoria in the pupillary darkness reflex. Unlike previous studies that focused on the pupillary light reflex, we examined response anisocoria in both pupillary light and darkness reflexes. While requiring participants to maintain central fixation, we presented a light or dark stimulus to either the right or left visual field to induce transient pupillary constriction or dilation. Both the pupillary light and darkness reflexes had significantly larger ipsilateral responses compared to the contralateral responses relative to the stimulated visual field. The observed ipsilateral effects occurred significantly faster in the light than darkness reflex, suggesting that larger ipsilateral pupillary dilation after a luminance decrease cannot be only attributed to the inhibition of the parasympathetic system, but is also mediated by the excitation of the sympathetic system. Together, our results demonstrated a larger ipsilateral pupil response in both the pupillary light and darkness reflex, indicating an asymmetry in ipsilateral and contralateral neural circuitry of the pupillary darkness reflex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3379-3388
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • consensual response
  • parasympathetic
  • pupil constriction and dilation
  • sympathetic


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