Patients who are blind in one side of their visual field benefit from presentation of sounds on the affected side. After passively hearing sounds for an hour, their visual detection of light stimuli in the blind half of their visual field improved significantly.
Neural pathways that simultaneously process information from different senses are responsible for this effect. “We have embarked on a whole new therapy approach” says PD Dr. Jörg Lewald from the RUB’s Cognitive Psychology Unit.
Together with colleagues from the Neurological University Clinic at Bergmannsheil (Prof. Dr. Martin Tegenthoff) and Durham University (PD Dr. Markus Hausmann), he describes the results in PLoS ONE.
Passive listening rather than extensive visual training
To investigate the effectiveness of the auditory stimulation, the research team carried out a visual test before and after the acoustic stimulation. Patients were asked to determine the position of light flashes in the healthy and in the blind field of vision. While performance was stable in the intact half of their field of vision, the number of correct answers in the blind half increased after the auditory stimulation. This effect lasted for 1.5 hours. “In other treatments, the patients undergo arduous and time-consuming visual training” explains Lewald. “The therapeutic results are moderate and vary greatly from patient to patient. Our result suggests that passive hearing alone can improve vision temporarily.”
The origin of visual field defects
If strokes or injuries cause damage to the area of the brain that processes the information of the visual sense, this results in a visual field defect. The area most commonly affected is the primary visual cortex, the first processing point for visual input to the cerebral cortex. The more neurons die in this brain area, the bigger the visual deficit. Usually the entire half of the visual field is affected, a condition known as hemianopia. “Hemianopia restricts patients immensely in their everyday life” says Lewald. “When objects or people are missed on the blind side, this can quickly lead to accidents.”
How the brain integrates sensory information
“There is increasing evidence that processing of incoming sensory information is not strictly separated in the brain”, says Lewald. “At various stages there are connections between the sensory systems.” In particular the nerve cells in the so-termed superior colliculus, part of the midbrain, process auditory and visual information simultaneously. This area is not usually affected by visual field defects, and thus continues to analyse visual stimuli. Therefore, remaining visual functions are retained in the blind half, which the patients, however, are not aware of. “Since the same nerve cells also receive auditory information, we had the idea to use acoustic stimuli to increase their sensitivity to light stimuli” says Lewald.
New research issues
The team of researchers now aims to further refine their therapy approach in order to reveal sustained improvement in visual functioning. They will also investigate whether the stimulation of the sense of hearing also has an effect on more complex visual functions. Finally, they aim to explore the mechanisms that underlie the effect observed.
J. Lewald, M. Tegenthoff, S. Peters, M. Hausmann (2012): Passive auditory stimulation improves vision in hemianopia, PLoS ONE, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031603
Further informationPD Dr. Jörg Lewald, Department of Psychology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel.: +49/234/32-25137
firstname.lastname@example.orgProf. Dr. Martin Tegenthoff, Neurological Clinic and Outpatients’ Clinic, BG University Hospital Bergmannsheil, 44789 Bochum, Germany, Tel.: +49/234/3026809
Click for moreLink to the full text article
Researchers release the brakes on the immune system
18.10.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research