Vision Restoration Therapy Might Improve Sight for Trauma, Stroke Victims

In-home computer device shows promise in stimulating affected brain areas, study shows

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FRIDAY, Aug. 17, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Vision restoration therapy (VRT) helps increase vision-related brain activity in patients who are partially blind because of a severe stroke or traumatic brain injury, a Columbia University Medical Center study finds.

VRT involves visual stimulation through six to seven months of daily in-home use of a computer device. Diagnostics that map the seeing and non-seeing areas of a patient's vision field are used to develop customized treatment involving repeated detection of light stimuli directed at the border between the patient's seeing and non-seeing areas, according to background information in the study.

The treatment is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This study included six patients, aged 35 to 77, with vision loss on the same side of both eyes caused by stroke or traumatic brain injury. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor the patients' brain activity as they underwent VRT.

The fMRI showed increased activity in visual processing areas of the patients' brains one month after they started VRT.

"Based on these initial results, we will continue to investigate the relationship between the imaging findings and the degree to which vision is recovered," Dr. Randolph S. Marshall, an associate professor of clinical neurology and acting director of the Division of Stroke and Critical Care at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a prepared statement.

There are between 1 million and 2 million stroke and head trauma victims in the United States who have experienced some loss of vision, according to the study.

The findings were published in the Aug. 14 online issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about vision impairment.

SOURCE: Columbia University Medical Center, news release, Aug. 14, 2007

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