Rehabilitation can restore some vision after stroke

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 3 Patients who lose vision after stroke can regain some of it through therapy that strengthens nerve cell activity, researchers reported at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2005.

"This is the first technique stroke patients can use to improve their vision," said Bernhard Sabel, Ph.D., professor of medical physiology at Otto-von-Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany. "Patients with visual field defects can now have reasonable hope that the blindness is changeable. This study found that the effect of therapy lasts well after therapy stops and indicates that extended training tends to further improve results."

Vision restoration therapy (VRT) involves identifying and stimulating regions in the visual field that are only partly damaged by stroke or trauma. The training can be done at home in front of a computer-based device, usually in 30-minute sessions, twice a day.

During the training, hundreds of visual stimulations are presented on the monitor to the areas of residual vision. Through repetitive use of damaged areas, a process known as neuroplasticity is induced. During neuroplasticity, the nerve activity related to vision is strengthened to help restore some of a person's visual functions.

Sabel and his colleagues presented findings from six and 12 months of VRT. Fifteen patients underwent six months of VRT and nine patients had 12 months of VRT. Visual field assessments were performed before and after VRT and then repeated an average of 46 months after completing VRT. After six months of VRT, sample stimulus detection increased significantly from about 54 percent to 63 percent. The number of undetected stimuli decreased significantly in both eyes.

Continuing VRT for 12 months improved the results achieved at six months. However, this change was only a statistical trend toward improvement and was not a significant change. Sabel and his colleagues had observed in a s

Contact: Bridgette McNeill
American Heart Association

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