Recovering Sight After Stroke
Reported August 15, 2011
ROCHESTER, NY (Ivanhoe Newswire) –One in four people who survive a stroke is left with vision loss that can significantly impact their lives. Patients are often told to adjust to their newly limited sight, as there have been few options available for improving it. Now, new research shows the brain can indeed be re-trained to see again. We have the story.
After a stroke two years ago, Marge Rockwell was up her job with a medical supply company. She was left with significant vision loss.
Id pretty much been told by a neurological ophthalmologist and others, you just need to adjust. Marge Rockwell, Stroke survivor, told Ivanhoe.
Neuroscientist, Krystel Huxlin, says rehab for vision loss after a stroke is virtually non-existent.
If you can do this with the motor system, why cant you do it with the visual system? If there are some visual parts of the brain intact, maybe we actually tap these areas. Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D.,
Neuroscientist at the University of Rochester medical center, told Ivanhoe.
First, Dr. Huxlin identifies and maps the patients blind field. Then, the patient stares at a square on a screen while deciding if a group of small dots located in the blind field is moving left or right. Even though the patients cant see the dots, they can sense their movement. Patients repeat this exercise an hour a day for several months.
By doing this day in and day out, they eventually re-learn how to interpret that visual stimulus in their blind field, Dr. Huxlin said.
The repetitive task forces other brain areas to learn to see.
After training, when you present stimulation to the blind field, now you get a response in the brain, Dr. Huxlin added.
Dr. Huxlin has seen improvement in the visual field of every patient. Rockwells vision is slowly improving, though she admits the task is boring.
Its a little bit of time, time I got, Rockwell said
She has one goal in mind.
I would love to be able to return to work, Rockwell concluded.
She plans to keep training until she gets there.
Dr. Huxlin says the company that has licensed this technology from her research will be deploying it for the general public within the year. Some patients have improved so much that theyre driving again. She says the improvement seems to be permanent once its achieved.