A new computer-based therapy for stroke victims who have suffered partial vision loss has been developed by Scottish scientists.
The researchers at Aberdeen University designed the interactive computer program to help sufferers of partial vision loss (hemianopia), which is caused by damage to the visual pathways in the brain after a stroke.
Their Neuro-Eye Therapy (NeET) system uses a Vision Rehabilitation Program to repeatedly stimulate blind areas of vision using on-screen patterns.
Clinical trials have shown that the benefits of the treatment include improved detection of moving/flickering objects in the blind areas, increased navigation skills and increased concentration span.
Dr Arash Sahraie, a reader in visual neuroscience at the university, explained that the basic principles behind NeET are similar to those of physiotherapy following a stroke. ’If muscles are affected following brain injury, patients are asked to repeat a pattern of limb movements in order to improve their mobility,’ he said.
’In the same way, after daily use of the Vision Rehabilitation Program over a six-month period, patients have reported an improvement in their sight, as well as a range of other benefits, including being able to get about more easily, both inside and outside their homes, and finding reading much less of a struggle.’
Those that stand to benefit from the therapy include the 7,500 people in the UK and 55,000 in Europe that suffer partial loss of sight every year after a stroke, as well as the tens of thousands of pre-existing cases of those with vision loss caused by brain damage.
’The device used in NeET is simple to set up in the home or office and requires no prior expertise or experience of computer use,’ said Dr Sahraie.
He added: ’The daily task involves looking at a computer screen and deciding whether or not an image is presented within the blind area by pressing a button. Initially patients can only guess whether the image was presented, but over time patients experience an improvement in their vision.’
The program is available from the Sight Science unit at Aberdeen University.