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eye, organ of vision and light perception. In humans the eye is of the camera type, with an iris diaphragm and variable focusing, or accommodation. Other types of eye are the simple eye, found in many invertebrates, and the compound eye, found in insects and many other arthropods. In an alternate pathway to the one that transmits visual images, the eye perceives sunlight. This information stimulates the hypothalamus, which passes the information on to the pineal gland. The pineal gland then regulates its production of the sleep-inducing chemical, melatonin, essentially setting the body's circadian clock (see rhythm, biological).

The Human Eye

Anatomy and Function

The human eye is a spheroid structure that rests in a bony cavity (socket, or orbit) on the frontal surface of the skull. The thick wall of the eyeball contains three covering layers: the sclera, the choroid, and the retina. The sclera is the outermost layer of eye tissue; part of it is visible as the “white” of the eye. In the center of the visible sclera and projecting slightly, in the manner of a crystal raised above the surface of a watch, is the cornea, a transparent membrane that acts as the window of the eye. A delicate membrane, the conjunctiva, covers the visible portion of the sclera.

Underneath the sclera is the second layer of tissue, the choroid, composed of a dense pigment and blood vessels that nourish the tissues. Near the center of the visible portion of the eye, the choroid layer forms the ciliary body, which contains the muscles used to change the shape of the lens (that is, to focus). The ciliary body in turn merges with the iris, a diaphragm that regulates the size of the pupil. The iris is the area of the eye where the pigmentation of the choroid layer, usually brown or blue, is visible because it is not covered by the sclera. The pupil is the round opening in the center of the iris; it is dilated and contracted by muscular action of the iris, thus regulating the amount of light that enters the eye. Behind the iris is the lens, a transparent, elastic, but solid ellipsoid body that focuses the light on the retina, the third and innermost layer of tissue.

The retina is a network of nerve cells, notably the rods and cones, and nerve fibers that fan out over the choroid from the optic nerve as it enters the rear of the eyeball from the brain. Unlike the two outer layers of the eye, the retina does not extend to the front of the eyeball. Between the cornea and iris and between the iris and lens are small spaces filled with aqueous humor, a thin, watery fluid. The large spheroid space in back of the lens (the center of the eyeball) is filled with vitreous humor, a jellylike substance.

Accessory structures of the eye are the lacrimal gland and its ducts in the upper lid, which bathe the eye with tears, keeping the cornea moist, clean, and brilliant, and drainage ducts that carry the excess moisture to the interior of the nose. The eye is protected from dust and dirt by the eyelashes, eyelid, and eyebrows. Six muscles extend from the eyesocket to the eyeball, enabling it to move in various directions.

Eye Disorders

In addition to errors of refraction (astigmatism, farsightedness, and nearsightedness), the human eye is subject to various types of injury, infection, and changes due to systemic disease. Strabismus is a condition in which the eye turns in or out because of an imbalance in the eye musculature. A cornea damaged by accident or illness can sometimes be corrected by excimer laser or surgically replaced with a healthy one from a deceased person. Experimental retinal implants, consisting of electrode arrays that receive visual data from an external camera, have been used to partially restore sight to persons with damaged retinas, enabling some recognition of shapes, light and dark areas, and motion. Eyes that are used in various ways for surgical repairs are supplied by eye banks. People can arrange to have their eyes donated to such organizations after their death.

Eyes in Other Animals

The camera type of eye, which forms excellent images, is found in all vertebrates, in cephalopods (such as the squid and octopus), and in some spiders. In each of those groups the camera type of eye evolved independently. In some species, e.g., kestrels, the eye can perceive ultraviolet light, an aid to tracking prey.

Simple eyes, or ocelli, are found in a great variety of invertebrate animals, including flatworms, annelid worms (such as the earthworm), mollusks, crustaceans, and insects. An ocellus has a layer of photosensitive cells that can set up impulses in nerve fibers; the more advanced types also have a rigid lens for concentrating light on this layer. Simple eyes can perceive light and dark, enabling the animal to perceive the location and movement of objects. They form no image, or a very poor one.

The compound eye is found in a large number of arthropods, including various species of insects, crustaceans, centipedes, and millipedes. A compound eye consists of from 12 to over 1,000 tubular units, called ommatidia, each with a rigid lens and photosensitive cells; each omnatidium is surrounded by pigment cells and receives only the light from its own lens. The lenses fit together on the surface of the eye, forming the large, many-faceted structure that can be seen, for example, in the fly. Each ommatidium supplies a small piece of the image perceived by the animal. The compound eye creates a poor image and cannot perceive small or distant objects; however, it is superior to the camera eye in its ability to discriminate brief flashes of light and movement, and in some insects (e.g., bees) it can detect the polarization of light. Because arthropods are so numerous, the compound eye is the commonest type of animal eye.

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Eye (invertebrate)

An aggregation of photoreceptor cells together with any associated optical structures. Eyes occur almost universally among animals, and are possessed by some species of virtually every major animal phylum. However, the complexity of eyes varies greatly, and this sense organ undoubtedly evolved independently a number of times within the animal kingdom.

The simplest invertebrate organs that might be considered to be eyes are clusters of photoreceptor cells located on the surface of the body. Pigment cells are usually interspersed among the photoreceptors, giving the eye a red or black color. Accessory structures, such as the lens and cornea, are usually absent. Simple eyes of this type, called pigment spot ocelli, are found in such invertebrates as jellyfish, flatworms, and sea stars.

The most basic image-forming type of invertebrate eye probably arose from such patches of photoreceptor cells by an in-sinking of the sensory epithelium to form a cup, which may have become closed in conjunction with the evolution of a cornea and lens. Such an evolutionary history is clearly suggested by the embryology and comparative anatomy of many invertebrates.

In bilateral cephalic invertebrates, the eyes are typically paired and located at the anterior end of the body. Although one pair is usual, as in mollusks and many arthropods, multiple pairs are not uncommon. Some polychaete annelids have 4 eyes, and scorpions may have as many as 12. The greatest number of eyes is found in marine flatworms, where there may be over 100 ocelli scattered over the dorsal anterior surface and along the sides of the body. The occurrence of eyes on parts of the body other than the head is usually correlated with radial symmetry or unusual modes of existence.

The primitive function of animal eyes was merely to provide information regarding the intensity, direction, and duration of environmental light. The perception of objects is dependent upon several factors, namely, the number of photoreceptors in the retina, the quality of the optics, and central processing of visual information.

Image formation has evolved as an additional capacity of the eyes of some invertebrates. The number of photoreceptor cells composing the retinal surface is of primary importance, since each photoreceptor cell or group of cells acts as the detector for one point of light. An image is formed by the retina through the association of points of light of varying intensity, much as an image is produced by an array of pixels on a computer monitor. The ability of an eye to form an image and the coarseness or fineness of the image are, therefore, dependent upon the number of points of light that are distinguished which, in turn, is dependent upon the number of photoreceptor cells composing the retina. A large number of photoreceptor cells must be present to produce even a coarse image. The great majority of invertebrate eyes cannot form a detailed image because they do not possess a sufficient number of photoreceptor cells. The number of photoreceptor cells might be sufficient to detect movement of an object, but is inadequate to provide much information about the object's form. See Photoreception

The focusing mechanisms of invertebrate eyes vary considerably. The focus of arthropod eyes tends to be fixed, that is, the distance between the optical apparatus and the retina cannot be changed. Thus objects are in focus only at a certain distance from the eye, determined by the distance between the lens and the retina.

The oceanic family of swimming polychaete worms, Alciopidae, have eyes of that are focused hydrostatically. A bulb to one side of the eye injects fluid into the space between the retina and the lens, forcing the lens outward. Another mechanism is employed in octopods whereby lens movement is brought about by a ciliary muscle attached to the lens (as in aquatic vertebrates, like fish).

The compound eye of crustaceans, insects, centipedes, and horseshoe crabs has a sufficiently different construction from that of other invertebrates to warrant separate discussion. The structural unit of the compound eye is called an ommatidium (see illustration). The outer end of the ommatidium is composed of a cornea, which appears on the surface of the eye as a facet. Beneath the cornea is an elongated, tapered crystalline cone; in many compound eyes the cornea and cone together function as a lens. The receptor element at the inner end of the ommatidium is composed of one or more central translucent cylinders (rhabdome), around which are located several photoreceptor cells (typically 7 or 8).

Two ommatidia from compound eye of crayfish Astacus enlarge picture
Two ommatidia from compound eye of crayfish Astacus

The rhabdome is the initial photoreceptive element, and it in turn stimulates the adjacent photoreceptor cells to depolarize. The photoreceptor element of each ommatidium functions as a unit and can respond only to one point of light. Thus image formation is dependent upon the number of photoreceptor units present. The number of ommatidia composing a compound eye varies greatly.

Pigment granules surround the ommatidium proximally and distally, forming a light screen that separates one ommatidium from another. The pigment granules migrate, depending upon the amount of light. In bright light the ommatidium is adapted by funneling light directly down to the rhabdome, by extending the pigment screen, so that light received by one ommatidium is prevented from stimulating the rhabdome of another. Under these conditions the image produced is said to be appositional, or mosaic. The term mosaic has been misinterpreted to mean that a given ommatidium forms a separate image, even if only a part of the image. In general, however, the compound eyes function like any other eye—each photoreceptor unit represents one point in visual space. It is not obvious whether or not compound eyes have any special advantages over other eye designs, despite their universal occurrence in crustaceans and insects. However, in many arthropods the total corneal surface is greatly convex, resulting in a wide visual field.

Many invertebrate eyes are capable of seeing and analyzing patterns of polarized light in nature. This capacity reaches its apex in compound eyes, as well as in the simple eyes of cephalopods. Cuttlefish are known to communicate with each other with displays produced on their body surfaces that are visible only to animals that have polarization vision. Most invertebrates with polarization vision, however, use this ability to navigate with the assistance of patterns of polarization in the sky that occur naturally due to scattering of sunlight by the atmosphere. Bees and ants can find their way back to their nests or hives using only these celestial polarization cues. See Eye (vertebrate)

Eye (vertebrate)

A sense organ that acts as a photoreceptor capable of image formation. The eye of vertebrates is constructed along a basic anatomical pattern which, in the diversification of animals, has undergone a variety of structural and functional modifications associated with different ecologies and modes of living. Often compared with a camera, the vertebrate eye is conveniently described in terms of its wall, cavities, and lens (see illustration).

Horizontal section through human eyeenlarge picture
Horizontal section through human eye


The wall of the eye consists of three distinct layers or tunics which, from outward to inward, are termed the fibrous, vascular, and sensory tunics.

Fibrous tunic

This continuous, outermost fibrous tunic comprises a transparent anterior portion, the cornea, and a tough posterior portion, the sclera. In the human, the cornea represents about one-sixth of the fibrous tunic, the sclera five-sixths.

The vertebrate cornea exhibits very few modifications in structure regardless of environmental influences. Its major constituent is connective tissue (both cells and fibers), regularly arranged and bordered on both anterior and posterior surfaces by an epithelium. The anterior epithelium is stratified, ectodermal in origin, and continuous with the (conjunctival) epithelium lining the eyelids. The transparency of the cornea is attributed to the geometric organization of its connective tissue elements, its constant state of deturgescence, and its chemical composition. It is the first ocular component traversed by the incoming light.

The sclera, a touch connective tissue tunic, provides support for the eye and serves for the attachment (insertions) of the muscles that move it.

The limbus is located at the angle of the anterior chamber. This small, circular transitional zone between the cornea and the sclera houses the major route for the discharge of aqueous humor from the anterior chamber.

Vascular tunic

The vascular tunic or uvea makes up the middle layer of the wall of the eye. It does not form a continuous layer around the eye but is deficient anteriorly, where the opening is termed the pupil. Beginning at the pupil, three continuous components of the uvea can easily be recognized: the iris, ciliary body, and choroid.

The iris is a spongy, circular diaphragm of loose, pigmented connective tissue separating the anterior and posterior chambers and housing a hole, the pupil, in its center. When heavily pigmented, the human iris appears brown; when lightly pigmented, blue.

The ciliary body is continuous with the root of the iris. The posterior epithelium of the iris continues along the internal surface of the ciliary body as a double layer of cells (ciliary part of the retina) which assumes many folds for the attachment of the suspensory ligament of the lens. This ligament holds the lens in position and shape, and marks the posterior boundary of the posterior chamber. The inner layer of the ciliary epithelium contains no pigment. It produces aqueous humor which flows into the posterior chamber and thence into the anterior chamber (via the pupil). The continual production and removal of this fluid maintain the intraocular pressure of the eye (which is increased in glaucoma).

The choroid is the most posterior portion of the uvea. It is directly continuous with the subepithelial portion of the ciliary body and consists primarily of blood vessels embedded within deeply pigmented connective tissue.

Sensory tunic

The retina is the sensory tunic of the eye. It has the form of a cup closely applied to the inner portion of the choroid, and, internally, it is slightly adherent to the semisolid vitreous body. The vertebrate retina contains the light-sensitive receptors (visual cells) and a complex of well-organized impulse-carrying nerve cells (neurons), all arranged into discrete layers.

The pigment epithelium forms an important barrier between the light-sensitive receptors (visual cells) and their blood supply, the choroid. As in the choroid, the pigmentation serves to absorb light and prevent its reflection.

The rods and cones of vertebrates generally occur as single units, but combinations of each type are frequently encountered in several vertebrate classes. Cones appear to be adapted for photopic, or daylight, vision, based on correlations with the visual habits of the animals involved. Rods, which predominate in nocturnal vertebrates, are adapted for scotopic, or night, vision. Except for their external process, the structure of these cells does not reflect these differences. See Photoreception; Vision

An important adaptation for improving visual detail in vertebrates is the formation of circumscribed thickenings of the retina resulting from localized increases in the number of visual cells and the other retinal neurons associated synaptically with them. Such thickenings, termed areas of acute vision, appear in some members of all vertebrate classes and reach their greatest development in birds, in which one to three distinct areas may be found in the same retina. Only a single area occurs in humans; it is colored yellow and is called the macula. The macula is situated in the center of the fundus and contains only cones.


Three cavities or chambers are present within the vertebrate eye: anterior, posterior, and vitreous. The anterior and posterior chambers are continuous with one another at the pupil and are filled with the aqueous humor. The eye is normally maintained in a distended state by the (intraocular) pressure created by this fluid. The vitreous cavity, on the other hand, is filled with a semisolid material, the vitreous body, which is fixed in amount and relatively permanent. Its consistency is not uniform in all vertebrates, however.


The lens is a transparent body, supported by thin suspensory fibers and by the vitreous body behind and by the iris in front. It is completely cellular, the anterior cells forming a thin epithelium, and the posterior cells, much elongated, forming the so-called lens fibers. The entire lens is surrounded by an elastic capsule which serves for the attachment of the ciliary zonule. In all vertebrates the lens functions in accommodation, either by moving backward and forward or by changing its shape. An opacity of the lens is termed a cataract.

Electrophysiology of rods and cones

Visual information perceived by the vertebrate eye is fed to the brain in the form of coded electrical impulses that are initiated by the light-sensitive, visual-pigment-containing outer segments of the rods and cones. Light striking the outer segments is absorbed by these pigments, resulting—in the case of rhodopsin, for example—in the isomerization of the 11-cis-retinal chromophore to all trans-retinal. The outcome of this photolytic process is a change in electrical activity at the plasma membrane enclosing the outer segments, and a sudden and drastic decrease in its permeability (particularly to Na+). The net result is a hyperpolarization response, or increased negativity of membrane potential. Hyperpolarization generates a membrane current that spreads to the inner segment and finally to the synaptic terminal, where it regulates the release of neurotransmitter and thus controls the flow of information from the visual cells to other retinal cells (bipolars, horizontals, other photoreceptors).

Cyclic GMP is directly responsible for regulating the permeability of the plasma membrane by opening ionic channels (in the light). Its concentration is controlled by a peripheral membrane enzyme, phosphodiesterase, which in turn is activated by transducin, an intracellular messenger protein generated by a photolytic intermediate of rhodopsin. Since one molecule of photoactivated rhodopsin can react with many molecules of transducin, an amplification of the visual cells' response is produced, the final amplitude being enhanced by breakdown of cyclic GMP by phosphodiesterase and subsequent closure of outer segment ionic channels and hyperpolarization.

Since photoreceptors are depolarized in the dark, their axon terminals continually release a transmitter that hyperpolarizes (inhibits) the bipolar cell, and since this cell is hyperpolarized in the dark, it is prevented from releasing its excitatory transmitter at the ganglion cell synapse so that the synapse is not excited. In the light, hyperpolarization of the visual cells causes a decrease in the amount of inhibitory transmitter released at the bipolar synapse, leading to a depolarization of the latter, which in turn increases the amount of excitatory transmitter released at the bipolar-ganglion synapses and affecting the ganglion cells.

A change in the light energy taking place across the retina also initiates a transient complex of electrical waveforms, the electroretinogram, which is recorded as a difference in potential between the cornea and the back of the eye.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The convex disk at the vortex of an Ionicvolute spiral.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the organ of reception of light stimulation in some invertebrate animals (in particular, cephalopod mollusks), in all vertebrates, and in man. In the majority of invertebrates, the functions of the eye are performed by less complex organs of sight, such as faceted eyes. In vertebrates the eyes are paired and are located in the eye sockets of the skull, the orbits. The eyes consist of the eye itself, or the eyeball, which is connected by means of the optic nerve to the brain, and accessory parts of the eye, including the eyelid, the lacrimal apparatus, and the oculomotor muscles. One type of eye structure is common to all vertebrate animals.

The eyeball is spherical in shape. The central point of the anterior surface is called the anterior pole of the eye; the point located on the posterior surface at the place where the optic nerve departs is called the posterior pole. The line between the poles is considered the anatomic axis; it coincides with the geometric axis. Located in the anterior, light-exposed portion of the eye is the dioptric (light-refractive) apparatus (the system of refractive media, including the cornea; the transparent biconvex lens, or crystalline lens; the aqueous humor; the vitreous body, which fills the eye cavity; the ciliary body, which serves for accommodation; and the iris), which transmits the image to the photosensitive retina.

The wall of the posterior portion of the eyeball consists of three membranes, which lie very close to one another. The dense exterior membrane—the sclera—is supportive and protective; it gives the eye its shape, as though it were its skeleton. On the anterior, open portion of the eye, the sclera becomes the thin and transparent cornea. Under the sclera is the vascular tunic, which is abundantly supplied with blood vessesls; the anterior portion of the vascular tunic, in the form of a thin film, forms the iris, which has an opening in the middle—the pupil. In the tissue of the iris of most vertebrates there are special muscles, the dilator and the sphincter, which regulate the entry of light rays into the eye by dilating and contracting the pupil; the iris thus performs the role of a diaphragm. Eye color depends on the pigmentation of the iris, which contains pigmentary cells—chromatophores—and shows through the transparent cornea. If the chromatophores are absent or the external layer of the retina lacks pigment, the blood vessels of the vascular tunic show through the iris and the eyes have a red color. The color of the iris sometimes changes according to the age, sex and habitat of an animal (dark eye color in many young birds and light in old ones, or milk-white color of the iris in young ones and orange-yellow in old ones, such as in the goshawk). Behind the iris lies the ciliary body, an annular ridge containing muscle fibers. Suspended to it by means of the fibers of the zonule of Zinn is the capsule of the crystalline lens. In the majority of vertebrates contraction of the ciliary body causes a change in the curvature of the crystalline lens, that is, accommodation (adaptation of the eye to distant or close vision takes place). The internal photosensitive membrane of the eye is the retina. Near the posterior pole of the eye is the yellow spot (macula lutea); somewhat closer to the midline is an area that lacks sensitivity to light—the blind spot. The nerve fibers of the entire retina are gathered at this place in the form of the optic nerve, which continues farther into the cerebrum. The eye has a number of characteristic features in different classes of vertebrates. In fish the eye is characterized by a flat cornea and a spherical lens. A special sickle-shaped process protrudes into the eye cavity from the vascular tunic; it contains smooth muscle fibers, which are attached to the capsule of the crystalline lens. Thus, eye accommodation in fish is accomplished by displacement of the lens. The posterior wall of the vascular tunic often contains a special layer of cells filled with tiny crystals of light pigment, the so-called silver membrane. In some fish there is a luminous layer—the mirror (tapetum), which reflects light rays back onto the retina, causing seeming luminescence of the eyes of certain fish in almost complete darkness (such as in sharks). In some deep-sea fish the eyes have atrophied, and in others they are huge and telescopic and are well adapted to capture the faint light of underwater depths. In the four-eyed fish the pupils are extended vertically; the cornea is divided by a horizontal strip into upper and lower divisions. When the fish swims on the surface, the upper portion of the eye is able to survey the air medium and the lower portion, the water medium.

In amphibians the cornea is distinguished by great convexity. The musculature of the iris and ciliary body is poorly developed; eye accommodation is accomplished by displacement of the crystalline lens with the aid of a special muscle that draws the lens forward to the cornea and also by pressure exerted by the retinal muscle.

In reptiles, except for the tuatara and tortoises, and in birds, except for the kiwi, a characteristic process abundantly supplied with blood vessels—the pectén—protrudes into the vitreous body from the point of entry of the optic nerve. The visual apparatus of birds is in many respects superior to that of other animals. Because of the eyeball’s very large dimensions and unique structure the field of vision is increased. In birds that have especially keen sight (vultures and eagles) the eyeball has an elongated “telescopic” shape. The retina contains up to three yellow spots.

The shape of the mammalian eye approaches that of amphibians. In aquatic mammals (such as whales) the convexity of its cornea and the magnitude of its refractive index is reminiscent of the eye of deep-sea fish. In Carnivora, Pinnipedia, and Cetácea the interior surface of the vascular tunic of the eye forms, as it does in a number of fish, a luminous pigmentary layer—the mirror.

Eyes that have atrophied are found in cave fish and amphibians (for example, the Proteidae family); in mammals that live underground (such as moles) they are characteristically placed deep under the skin or they lack a lens, an iris, and several layers of retina.

Human eye. The human eye consists of an eyeball (the eye itself), connected by the optic nerve to the brain, and the auxiliary apparatus (eyelids, lacrimal organs, and muscles that move the eyeball). The shape of the eyeball is that of a not entirely regular sphere; the anterior-posterior distance in an adult averages 24.3 mm, the vertical distance 23.4 mm, and the horizontal 23.6 mm; the dimensions of the eyeball may be larger or smaller, which is significant in the formation of the refractive ability of the eye. The walls of the eye consist of three concentric tunics—the exterior, middle, and interior. They surround the contents of the eyeball—the crystalline lens, vitreous body, and intraocular fluid (aqueous humor).

The exterior tunic of the eye is the opaque sclera, or the white, which occupies five-sixths of its surface; in its anterior section it joins the transparent cornea. Together they form the corneoscleral capsule of the eye, which, being the toughest and most resilient exterior part of the eye, performs a protective function and forms a sort of skeleton for the eye. The sclera is formed of dense connective-tissue fibers; its average thickness is approximately 1 mm. The sclera is extremely thin in the region of the posterior pole of the eye, where it turns into a cribriform plate, through which pass the fibers that form the optic nerve of the eye. In the anterior portion of the sclera almost at the junction of its transition to the corneal membrane lies a circular sinus, the so-called canal of Schlemm (named after the German anatomist who first described it, F. Schlemm), which participates in the efflux of intraocular fluid. The front of the sclera is covered with a thin mucous membrane, the conjunctiva, which posteriorly goes to the interior surfaces of the upper and lower lids. The corneal surface is anteriorly convex and posteriorly concave; its thickness at the center is approximately 0.6 mm and at the periphery, up to 1 mm. In optical properties the cornea is the strongest refracting medium of the eye. It is also a sort of window through which light rays enter the eye. There are no blood vessels in the cornea; it is nourished by diffusion from the vascular network located at the junction between it and the sclera. Owing to the numerous nerve endings disposed in the surface layers of the cornea, it is the most sensitive external part of the body. Even a light touch elicits a reflexive instantaneous closing of the eyelids, which prevents foreign bodies from reaching the cornea and shields it from heat and cold injury. Immediately behind the cornea is the anterior chamber of the eye; this chamber is a space filled with transparent fluid, the so-called chamber humor, the chemical composition of which is close to that of cerebrospinal fluid. The anterior chamber has a central (average depth, 2.5 mm) and a peripheral division—the latter being the angle of the anterior chamber. In this division lies a formation consisting of interwoven fibrous membranes, with tiny openings through which filtration of the chamber fluid into the canal of Schlemm takes place; from there it goes into the venous plexi located in the mass and on the surface of the sclera. Owing to the efflux of chamber humor, intraocular pressure is kept at a normal level.

The iris is the posterior wall of the anterior chamber; in its center is the pupil, a round opening approximately 3.5 mm in diameter. The iris is spongy in structure and contains pigment; depending on the quantity of the pigment and the thickness of the membrane, the eye may be dark (black, brown) or light (grey, blue) in color. Also in the iris are two muscles that dilate and contract the pupil, which plays the role of a diaphragm in the optical system of the eye—in the light it narrows (direct reaction to light), shielding the eye from strong light stimulation, and in the dark it dilates (inverse reaction to light), permitting the eye to capture very faint light rays. The iris gives rise to the ciliary body, which secretes intraocular fluid and which consists of a plicated anterior portion, called the corona of the ciliary body, and a flat posterior portion. In the plicated portion are found processes to which are attached thin ligaments, which then go to the crystalline lens and form its suspensory apparatus. In the ciliary body an involuntary muscle is located, which participates in eye accommodation. The flat part of the ciliary body becomes the vascular tunic proper, which lies close to almost the entire interior surface of the sclera and consists of blood vessels of various diameters, which contain approximately 80 percent of the blood entering the eye. The iris, the ciliary body, and the vascular tunic together make up the middle tunic of the eye, which is called the vascular tract.

The interior tunic of the eye—the retina—is the receptor apparatus of the eye. Anatomically, the retina consists of ten layers, the most important of which is the layer of visual cells, which consists of light-receptor cells, rods and cones, that effect color perception. In these cells occurs the transformation of the physical energy of the light rays entering the eye into a nerve impulse, which is transmitted along the path of the optic nerve to the occipital portion of the brain, where the visual image is formed. Located in the center of the retina is the region of the yellow spot, which is necessary for the most delicate and differentiated vision. In the forward half of the retinal membrane, approximately 4 mm from the yellow spot, is the exit point of the optic nerve, which forms a disk 1.5 mm in diameter. From the center of the disk emerge blood vessels—an artery and a vein—that branch out and are distributed over almost the entire surface of the retinal membrane. The eye cavity is filled by the crystalline lens and the vitreous body.

The lenticular crystalline lens, one of the parts of the dioptric apparatus of the eye, is located immediately behind the iris; between its anterior surface and the posterior surface of the iris is a slitlike space—the posterior chamber of the eye; like the anterior chamber, it too is filled with aqueous humor. The crystalline lens consists of a sac formed by the anterior and posterior capsules, inside of which are enclosed fibers layered one upon another. There are no blood vessels or nerves in the crystalline lens. The vitreous body, a colorless, gelatinous mass, occupies a large portion of the eye cavity. Anteriorly it lies next to the lens and laterally and posteriorly, next to the retinal membrane. Movements of the eyeball are made possible by an apparatus, which consists of four straight and two oblique muscles that originate from the fibrous ring at the top of the orbit and, spreading fanlike, are interwoven into the sclera. Contractions of certain eye muscles or of groups of them provide for coordinated eye movements.


In anthropology the width of the palpebral fissure of the eye (the distance between the lids), its slant, and the color of the iris are taken into account. In Mongoloids the palpebral fissure is narrow and the outer corner of the eye is noticeably higher than the inner, due to the great development of the epicanthus. The palpebral fissure of Caucasians is horizontal and of medium width and that of the negroid races is wide. The color of the iris depends on the quantity of pigment and the depth of its deposit; this determines the type of coloring: dark (dark-brown, light-brown, or yellow), mixed (brown-yellow-green, green, gray-green, or gray with a yellow rim around the pupil), or light (gray, gray-blue, light-blue, or blue). Dark-pigmented races have principally dark eyes; Caucasians have a large percentage of light-colored and mixed eyes. Sex and age variations are insignificant regarding the color of the iris; with age there is only a decrease in pigmentation.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about eyes?

Eyes have many associations, and thus constitute a difficult symbol to interpret. Eyes are associated with wisdom, knowledge, enlightenment, perceptiveness, and gods and goddesses. Eyes may also be crossed, blinded, or half-shut. Certain kinds of glances are revelatory (“she looked right through me”); others are dangerous (“if looks could kill,” “the evil eye”).

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(food engineering)
A hole formed in certain cheeses during ripening, such as in swiss cheese.
A photoreceptive sense organ that is capable of forming an image in vertebrates and in some invertebrates such as the squids and crayfishes.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. The central roundel of a pattern or ornament.
2. The circular (or nearly circular) central part of a volute, as in an Ionic capital.
3. One of the smaller, more or less triangular, openings between the bars of Gothic tracery.
4. An oculus, esp. one at the summit of a dome.
5. A hole through material for access, to permit the passage of a pin, or to serve as a means of attachment.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


eyeclick for a larger image
i. The portion of a centrifugal compressor through which fluid enters.
ii. The center of a cyclone where calm prevails. This is an area where there is no rising air but descending currents may be present. The eye averages 14 mi in diameter, with no precipitation, very light winds, and sometimes a clear sky and complete calm.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


God sees all things in all places. [Christian Symbolism: O.T.: Proverbs 15:3]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the organ of sight of animals, containing light-sensitive cells associated with nerve fibres, so that light entering the eye is converted to nervous impulses that reach the brain. In man and other vertebrates the iris controls the amount of light entering the eye and the lens focuses the light onto the retina
2. the visible external part of an eye, often including the area around it
3. a structure or marking having the appearance of an eye, such as the bud on a twig or potato tuber or a spot on a butterfly wing
4. a small area of low pressure and calm in the centre of a tornado or cyclone
5. See photocell
6. the eye of the wind Nautical the direction from which the wind is blowing
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Eyes are complex dream symbols and can be interpreted by considering the dreamer’s experiences and the details in the dream (as is the case with all dream symbols). Some say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes symbolize perceptiveness, personal outlook, clairvoyance, curiosity, and knowledge. They also reveal information about personal identity and suggest to the dreamer what he should pay attention to. Closed eyes are said to represent fear and an unwillingness to see clearly. Superstition-based dream interpretations say that if the eyes in your dream are beautiful they represent peace. Crossed eyes may be an unconscious warning about someone’s character, integrity, or misperceptions.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.