Restoration of Vision after Stroke
About 1/3 of all stroke patients suffer posterior artery infarction which is detrimental to the brain vision processing centers. This leads to serious visual impairment typically in one half of the visual space (called hemianopia) with significant impairments in every day life activities. The visual loss creates problems with reading, orientation in space and visually-guided mobility, especially driving which remain with the patients for the rest of their lives. New treatments options are therefore urgently needed to help these patients improve their sight. The prevalence of visual impairments in stroke is about 11.0 Mio. worldwide, with 2.1 Mio new cases annually. Recent studies have shown that there is justifiable hope that we might be able to improve visual functions. This is based on the presence of residual visual capacities of the brain which are not sufficiently activated. According to the residual vision activation theory, residual visual tissue is located next to the lesioned area and in larger scale brain networks. By repetitively stimulating them it might be possible to improve vision. This is possible because of the brains ability to adapt to the damage, called neuroplasticity. We wish to find the best possible stimulation methods to activate residual vision by inducing brain plasticity. This will be accomplished by using modern non-invasive brain stimulation technology which was already successfully used to improve vision after optic nerve trauma and motor performance deficits after stroke. Four European research centres now combine their efforts to better understand the underlying neuronal mechanisms of brain plasticity and to find appropriate means to restore vision after stroke. If successful, the project will uncover the potential to activate residual visual capacities after stroke and provide the basis for the commercial development of a novel, non-invasive current stimulation medical device. In this manner many patients can be offered a solution to improve their vision in a lasting way and thus improve their quality of life. If the studies are successful, we expect that the new technology can be deployed to routine care of patients with visual impairment after stroke.
stroke, Rehabilitation, Brain repair, vision plasticity, recovery, non-invasive current stimulation, restoration
2011 - 2015
Bernhard Sabel (Coordinator)
Paolo Maria Rossini