Changes in Visual Cortical Connectivity Following Central Visual Field Loss

Project Overview & Components

Research Focus

The overall objective of this proposal is to identify the neuroplastic mechanisms that allow patients with MD to use peripheral vision for tasks, such as reading and recognizing faces, for which people with healthy vision use the macula. Our central hypothesis is that greater reliance on peripheral vision following MD leads visual cortical regions representing the periphery to become structurally and functionally more similar to those representing the macula, thus improving functional vision. The motivation for the proposed research is that better understanding of neural mechanisms that underlie enhanced peripheral vision in patients who suffer from macular degeneration is essential to developing the next generation of therapeutic interventions. 

We will test our central hypothesis by identifying how the following characteristics of early visual areas change after central vision loss: 1) functional connectivity to fronto-parietal control regions, (2) structural measures of white matter integrity, (3) cortical thickness. We will compare participants with age-related macular degeneration to matched controls using the Human Connectome Project protocols. These aims are expected to yield information about how top-down connections to early visual areas contribute to plasticity after vision loss. This contribution will be significant because it will fundamentally alter our understanding of how the brain compensates after vision loss, and revise our understanding of neural plasticity in general. This knowledge will guide the development of new strategies for training patients with  vision loss to use their spared vision more effectively.

Data Being Collected

  • Standard HCP Demographics
  • Imaging: Standard CCF MRI Protocol, plus retinotopy, optical coherence tomography (OCT), sectorial RNFL thickness (MPB), and microperimetry (MAIA) 
  • Clinical: OD/OS, best corrected visual acuity
  • Behavior: Standard HCP behavioral assessment, plus behavioral measures of visual functioning

Cohort Description

Data will be collected on 100 participants between the ages 18 to 89 years old. 50 will have macular degeneration, 50 will be age, gender and education matched controls.

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