Increased visual sensitivity and occipital activity in patients with hemianopia following vision rehabilitation

Sara Ajina, Kristin Jünemann, Arash Sahraie, Holly Bridge * (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Hemianopia, loss of vision in half of the visual field, results from damage to the visual pathway posterior to the optic chiasm. Despite negative effects on quality of life, few rehabilitation options are currently available. Recently, several long-term training programs have been developed that show visual improvement within the blind field. Little is known of the underlying neural changes. Here, we have investigated functional and structural changes in the brain associated with visual rehabilitation. Seven human participants with occipital lobe damage enrolled in a visual training program to distinguish which of two intervals contained a drifting Gabor patch presented within the blind field. Participants performed ∼25 min of training each day for 3–6 months and undertook psychophysical tests and an magnetic resonance imaging scan before and after training. A control group undertook psychophysical tests before and after an equivalent period without training. Participants who were not at ceiling on baseline tests showed on average 9.6% improvement in Gabor detection, 8.3% in detection of moving dots, and 9.9% improvement in direction discrimination after training. Importantly, psychophysical improvement only correlated with improvement in Humphrey perimetry in the trained region of the visual field. Whole-brain analysis showed an increased neural response to moving stimuli in the blind visual field in motion area V5/hMT. Using a region-of-interest approach, training had a significant effect on the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal compared with baseline. Moreover, baseline V5/hMT activity was correlated to the amount of improvement in visual sensitivity using psychophysical and perimetry tests. This study, identifying a critical role for V5/hMT in boosting visual function, may allow us to identify which patients may benefit most from training and design adjunct intervention to increase training effects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Early online date25 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2021

Keywords

  • hemianopia
  • rehabilitation
  • perimetry
  • functional MRI
  • area V5/hMT

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