For decades, it has been thought that blindness experienced after brain lesions is irreversible, with the damage to the optic nerves leading to permanent impairments affecting the everyday activities of those who suffer them.
However, a recent study published in Elsevier"s Brain Stimulation has suggested that treating these patients with low levels of non-invasive, repetitive, transorbital alternating current stimulation (rtACS) may be able to significantly reduce visual impairment and improves vision-related quality of life.
When the therapy is administered for ten days at 30 to 40 minutes per day, patients exhibited improvements which allowed them to begin taking part in everyday activities such as reading and driving, while boosting their spatial orientation.
Dr Bernhard Sabel, researcher and senior author of the study, noted that the results showed that treatment with rtACS resulted in an average 41 per cent shrinkage of the visual field loss.
The rtACS-treated patients show significantly improved visual field sizes, which was not observed in those who received placebos treatment.
Actively treated patients confirmed that their general vision was improved, while, in the placebo group, visual fields and estimates of subjective visual functioning were generally unchanged.
"Our findings are important because they show that partial blindness can be reversed. We show for the first time that partial blindness can be reduced by a short-lasting therapeutic procedure using non-invasive electrical current stimulation," the expert explained.
He said that the findings of the study are not only of interest to scientists, indicating that the adult visual system is more modifiable than was previously thought, but may also help develop new therapies for patients with visual field loss.
"Improving vision in a subjectively meaningful way is a clinical achievement that reduces the suffering of the partially blind," the report stated.
by Martin Burns