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Rigorous Visual Training Teaches the Brain to See Again After Stroke
Date:3/31/2009

ye Institute.

The team focused on motion perception, since it's an aspect of vision critical for most everyday tasks. The team's aim was to see if the brain's middle temporal region, which was healthy in the participants, could be stimulated so extensively that it could take on some of the tasks normally handled by the visual cortex.

The five participants who performed the training and completed the experiment had significantly improved vision. They were able to see in ways they weren't able to before the experiment began. A few found the experiment life-changing - a couple of participants are driving again, for instance, or have gained the confidence to go shopping and exercise frequently.

Following the dancing dots that can't be "seen"

To do the experiment, participants fix their gaze on a small black square in the middle of a computer screen; scientists use a sensitive eye tracker to make sure patients keep staring at the square.

Every few seconds, a group of about 100 small dots appears within a circle on the screen, somewhere in the person's damaged visual field - in other words, when the patients stare at the square, they don't initially see the dots. The dots twinkle into existence, appear to move as a group either to the left or the right, then disappear after about one-half second. Then the patient has to choose whether the dots are moving left or right. A chime indicates whether he or she chose correctly, providing feedback that lets the brain know whether it made the right choice and speeding up learning.

But how do patients choose if they can't consciously see the dots?

"The patients can't see the dots, but they're aware that there is something happening that they can't quite see. They might say, 'I know that there's something there, but I can't make any sense of it,'" said Huxlin, who is also a faculty member in the departments of Ophthal
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SOURCE University of Rochester Medical Center
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