Cerebral blindness is a loss of vision as a result of postchiasmatic damage to the visual pathways. Parts of the lost visual field can be restored through training. However, the neuronal mechanisms through which training effects occur are still unclear. We therefore assessed training-induced changes in brain function in eight patients with cerebral blindness. Visual fields were measured with perimetry and retinotopic maps were acquired with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after vision restoration training. We assessed differences in hemodynamic responses between sessions that represented changes in amplitudes of neural responses and changes in receptive field locations and sizes. Perimetry results showed highly varied visual field recovery with shifts of the central visual field border ranging between 1 and 7°. fMRI results showed that, although retinotopic maps were mostly stable over sessions, there was a small shift of receptive field locations toward a higher eccentricity after training in addition to increases in receptive field sizes. In patients with bilateral brain activation, these effects were stronger in the affected than in the intact hemisphere. Changes in receptive field size and location could account for limited visual field recovery (±1°), although it could not account for the large increases in visual field size that were observed in some patients. Furthermore, the retinotopic maps strongly matched perimetry measurements before training. These results are taken to indicate that local visual field enlargements are caused by receptive field changes in early visual cortex, whereas large-scale improvement cannot be explained by this mechanism.
- BSS-Biomechatronics and rehabilitation technology
- retinotopic maps
- Vision Restoration Training