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Mark W. Greenlee, Katharina Rosengarth, Carolin Schmalhofer, Markus Goldhacker, Sabine Brandl-Rühle, Tina Plank; Perceptual learning in patients with central scotomata due to hereditary and age-related macular dystrophy. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):666. doi: 10.1167/14.10.666.
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Hereditary and age-related forms of macular dystrophy (MD) are characterized by loss of cone function in the fovea, leading to central scotomata and eccentric fixation at the so-called preferred retinal locus (PRL). We investigated whether perceptual learning enhances visual abilities at the PRL. We also determined the neural correlates (3-Tesla fMRI) of learning success. Twelve MD patients (eight with age-related macular dystrophy, four with hereditary macular dystrophies) were trained on a texture discrimination task (TDT) over six days. Patients underwent three fMRI sessions (before, during and after training) while performing the TDT (target at PRL or opposite PRL). Reading speed, visual acuity (Vernier task) and contrast sensitivity were also assessed before and after training. With one exception, all patients showed improved performance (i.e. significant decrease in stimulus onset asynchronies and reaction times, significant increase in hit rates) on the TDT. Eight patients also showed moderate increases in reading speed, six patients showed improved thresholds in contrast sensitivity and nine patients showed improved thresholds in a vernier visual acuity task after TDT training. We found an increase in BOLD response in the projections zone of the PRL in the primary visual cortex in nine of twelve patients after training. The change in fMRI signal correlated (r = .8; p = .02) with the patientsâ€™ performance enhancements when the target was in the PRL. The results suggest that perceptual learning can enhance eccentric vision and cortical processing in MD patients.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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