A shocking new study published in the journal Current Biology shows that stimulating the part of the brain that processes visual input with electricity can improve vision for several hours. It appears that test subjects with the lowest levels of visual acuity had the greatest amount of improvement.
Geoff Woodman, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, and co-author of the study said, “It’s actually a very simple idea. This kind of stimulation can improve cognitive processing in other brain areas, so if we stimulate the visual system, could we improve processing? Could we make someone’s vision better—not at the level of the eye, like Lasik or glasses, but directly at the level of the brain?”
For the study, healthy participants with normal visual acuity compared the relative position of two identical vertical lines and were asked to determine whether the lines were exactly aligned with one another, or offset slightly. Because of the fine level of differences involved, this type of test is more sensitive than a standard eye chart. The more detailed measurements provide the researchers a very precise record of each subjects’ visual acuity.
Once a base line had been set, the test subjects then had a very mild electric current passed through their visual cortex, the area of the brain that processes vision. Approximately twenty minutes later the subjects performed the test a second time, where 75% of them showed measurable improvements when compared to their original results.
The prospects of this new discovery are exciting for those in the fields of both eye health and neuroscience. This new tool could be rather valuable for researchers looking for answers to fundamental questions about how the visual system works.