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Jefferson awarded multi-million dollar grant from National Eye Institute for new clinical trial

PHILADELPHIA Researchers at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University and the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University were recently awarded a $3.7 million grant from The National Eye Institute to study depression in patients diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Barry W. Rovner, M.D., director of Clinical Alzheimer's Disease Research at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences and professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Jefferson Medical College; and Robin Casten, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, will lead the single site study of 200 AMD patients, who will be followed for 12 months, to determine the effectiveness of a treatment program designed to prevent depression and disability in these patients.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. It gradually destroys sharp, central vision, which is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. In some cases, the disease advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, it progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes.

"Vision loss in the elderly is a major risk factor for depression. The disease robs older persons of their ability to perform everyday activities and limits their independence," said Dr. Rovner. "The loss of these abilities and having to give up valued activities can lead to depression. We want to find ways to improve the vision skills of people with AMD and thereby prevent depression."

The Low Vision Depression Prevention Trial will test a combined treatment to prevent depression and disability associated with AMD. It will test the efficacy of a low vision rehabilitation and psychological intervention program designed to treat/prevent depression in patients diagnosed with the disease by helping them maintain their independence and participation in enjoyable activities. The study consists of two low vision optometry visits, in which specially trained optometrists will evaluate visual function and develop a rehabilitative plan; and six in-home occupational therapy visits where low-vision occupational therapists will teach compensatory strategies to improve visual ability and administer a behavioral treatment to activate subjects and enable them to remain engaged in valued activities.

"Vision loss in the elderly is extremely distressing, significantly impacts quality of life, and is a risk factor for nursing home placement," said Dr. Casten. "Finding ways to help these patients maintain their independence and engagement with life is key to promoting successful aging."


Contact: Ed Federico
Thomas Jefferson University

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