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The Glenn A. Fry Award Lecture 2012: Plasticity of the Visual System Following Central Vision Loss

Chung, Susana T. L.*

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e318294c2da
Feature Article Online
Press Release

ABSTRACT: Following the onset of central vision loss, most patients develop an eccentric retinal location outside the affected macular region, the preferred retinal locus (PRL), as their new reference for visual tasks. The first goal of this article is to present behavioral evidence showing the presence of experience-dependent plasticity in people with central vision loss. The evidence includes the presence of oculomotor re-referencing of fixational saccades to the PRL; the characteristics of the shape of the crowding zone (spatial region within which the presence of other objects affects the recognition of a target) at the PRL are more “foveal-like” instead of resembling those of the normal periphery; and the change in the shape of the crowding zone at a para-PRL location that includes a component referenced to the PRL. These findings suggest that there is a shift in the referencing locus of the oculomotor and the sensory visual system from the fovea to the PRL for people with central vision loss, implying that the visual system for these individuals is still plastic and can be modified through experiences. The second goal of the article is to demonstrate the feasibility of applying perceptual learning, which capitalizes on the presence of plasticity, as a tool to improve functional vision for people with central vision loss. Our finding that visual function could improve with perceptual learning presents an exciting possibility for the development of an alternative rehabilitative strategy for people with central vision loss.

*OD, PhD, FAAO

School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California.

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© 2013 American Academy of Optometry