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Hear to see: New method for the treatment of visual field defects
Date:5/30/2012

Patients who are blind in one side of their visual field benefit from presentation of sounds on the affected side. After passively hearing sounds for an hour, their visual detection of light stimuli in the blind half of their visual field improved significantly. Neural pathways that simultaneously process information from different senses are responsible for this effect. "We have embarked on a whole new therapy approach" says PD Dr. Jrg Lewald from the RUB's Cognitive Psychology Unit. Together with colleagues from the Neurological University Clinic at Bergmannsheil (Prof. Dr. Martin Tegenthoff) and Durham University (PD Dr. Markus Hausmann), he describes the results in PLoS ONE.

Passive listening rather than extensive visual training

To investigate the effectiveness of the auditory stimulation, the research team carried out a visual test before and after the acoustic stimulation. Patients were asked to determine the position of light flashes in the healthy and in the blind field of vision. While performance was stable in the intact half of their field of vision, the number of correct answers in the blind half increased after the auditory stimulation. This effect lasted for 1.5 hours. "In other treatments, the patients undergo arduous and time-consuming visual training" explains Lewald. "The therapeutic results are moderate and vary greatly from patient to patient. Our result suggests that passive hearing alone can improve vision temporarily."

The origin of visual field defects

If strokes or injuries cause damage to the area of the brain that processes the information of the visual sense, this results in a visual field defect. The area most commonly affected is the primary visual cortex, the first processing point for visual input to the cerebral cortex. The more neurons die in this brain area, the bigger the visual deficit. Usually the entire half of the visual field is affected, a condition known as hem
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Contact: Dr. Joerg Lewald
joerg.lewald@rub.de
49-234-322-5137
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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