Innovations in engineering and neuroscience have enabled the development of sophisticated visual prosthetic devices. In clinical trials, these devices have provided visual acuities as high as 20/460, enabled coarse navigation, and even allowed for reading of short words. However, long-term commercial viability arguably rests on attaining even better vision and more definitive improvements in tasks of daily living and quality of life. Here we review technological and biological obstacles in the implementation of visual prosthetics. Research in the visual prosthetic field has tackled significant technical challenges, including biocompatibility, signal spread through neural tissue, and inadvertent activation of passing axons; however, significant gaps in knowledge remain in the realm of neuroscience, including the neural code of vision and visual plasticity. We assert that further optimization of prosthetic devices alone will not provide markedly improved visual outcomes without significant advances in our understanding of neuroscience.
Susac's syndrome is a rare autoimmune microangiopathy characterized by the clinical triad of encephalopathy, branch retinal artery occlusions, and sensorineural hearing loss. In many cases, the clinical triad is not fully present at the onset of symptoms. MRI studies often show characteristic punched out lesions of the central fibers of the corpus callosum, and leptomeningeal enhancement and deep gray matter lesions may also be seen. Here we present a case of Susac's syndrome in a middle aged man with the unique clinical finding of cauda equina syndrome and spinal MRI showing diffuse lumbosacral nerve root enhancement. Biopsy specimens of the brain, leptomeninges, and skin showed evidence of a pauci-immune endotheliopathy, consistent with pathology described in previous cases of Susac's syndrome. This case is important not only because it expands the clinical features of Susac's syndrome but also because it clarifies the mechanism of a disorder of the endothelium, an important target for many disorders of the nervous system.
In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) spinal motor neurons (SpMN) progressively degenerate while a subset of cranial motor neurons (CrMN) are spared until late stages of the disease. Using a rapid and efficient protocol to differentiate mouse embryonic stem cells (ESC) to SpMNs and CrMNs, we now report that ESC-derived CrMNs accumulate less human (h)SOD1 and insoluble p62 than SpMNs over time. ESC-derived CrMNs have higher proteasome activity to degrade misfolded proteins and are intrinsically more resistant to chemically-induced proteostatic stress than SpMNs. Chemical and genetic activation of the proteasome rescues SpMN sensitivity to proteostatic stress. In agreement, the hSOD1 G93A mouse model reveals that ALS-resistant CrMNs accumulate less insoluble hSOD1 and p62-containing inclusions than SpMNs. Primary-derived ALS-resistant CrMNs are also more resistant than SpMNs to proteostatic stress. Thus, an ESC-based platform has identified a superior capacity to maintain a healthy proteome as a possible mechanism to resist ALS-induced neurodegeneration.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: In recent years, literature on neuroinflammatory disorders has dramatically expanded, as have options for treatment. However, few reviews have focused on skull-based manifestations of inflammatory disorders. RECENT FINDINGS: Here, we review the clinical manifestations, etiologies, diagnostic workup, and treatment of both systemic and localized inflammatory diseases of the skull base with a focus on recent updates to the literature. This review aims to guide the workup and management of this complex set of diseases.
Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) and other genetic causes of visual loss are important clinical entities that can cause profound visual loss. To date, therapeutic options have been quite limited, but insights into the genetic basis of these diseases and advances in the ability to deliver effective and safe gene therapy have opened the door for new therapeutics that may revolutionize the approach to treating these conditions. This article reviews emerging gene therapies of LHON and other inherited ophthalmological diseases, addressing the technical, clinical, and ethical challenges that researchers and clinicians will encounter as new treatments become available for these conditions.
Sensory signals must be interpreted in the context of goals and tasks. To detect a target in an image, the brain compares input signals and goals to elicit the correct behavior. We examined how target detection modulates visual recognition signals by recording intracranial field potential responses from 776 electrodes in 10 epileptic human subjects. We observed reliable differences in the physiological responses to stimuli when a cued target was present versus absent. Goal-related modulation was particularly strong in the inferior temporal and fusiform gyri, two areas important for object recognition. Target modulation started after 250 ms post stimulus, considerably after the onset of visual recognition signals. While broadband signals exhibited increased or decreased power, gamma frequency power showed predominantly increases during target presence. These observations support models where task goals interact with sensory inputs via top-down signals that influence the highest echelons of visual processing after the onset of selective responses.
Cortical (cerebral) visual impairment (CVI) is characterized by visual dysfunction associated with damage to the optic radiations and/or visual cortex. Typically it results from pre- or perinatal hypoxic damage to postchiasmal visual structures and pathways. The neuroanatomical basis of this condition remains poorly understood, particularly with regard to how the resulting maldevelopment of visual processing pathways relates to observations in the clinical setting. We report our investigation of 2 young adults diagnosed with CVI and visual dysfunction characterized by difficulties related to visually guided attention and visuospatial processing. Using high-angular-resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI), we characterized and compared their individual white matter projections of the extrageniculo-striate visual system with a normal-sighted control. Compared to a sighted control, both CVI cases revealed a striking reduction in association fibers, including the inferior frontal-occipital fasciculus as well as superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi. This reduction in fibers associated with the major pathways implicated in visual processing may provide a neuroanatomical basis for the visual dysfunctions observed in these patients.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are associated with widespread changes in brain structure and function, as indicated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) morphometry and 18-fluorodeoxyglucose position emission tomography (FDG PET) metabolism. Nevertheless, the ability to differentiate between AD, MCI and normal aging groups can be difficult. Thus, the goal of this study was to identify the combination of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, MRI morphometry, FDG PET metabolism and neuropsychological test scores to that best differentiate between a sample of normal aging subjects and those with MCI and AD from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. The secondary goal was to determine the neuroimaging variables from MRI, FDG PET and CSF biomarkers that can predict future cognitive decline within each group. To achieve these aims, a series of multivariate stepwise logistic and linear regression models were generated. Combining all neuroimaging modalities and cognitive test scores significantly improved the index of discrimination, especially at the earliest stages of the disease, whereas MRI gray matter morphometry variables best predicted future cognitive decline compared to other neuroimaging variables. Overall these findings demonstrate that a multimodal approach using MRI morphometry, FDG PET metabolism, neuropsychological test scores and CSF biomarkers may provide significantly better discrimination than any modality alone.
Symmetry is an organizational principle that is ubiquitous throughout the visual world. However, this property can also be detected through non-visual modalities such as touch. The role of prior visual experience on detecting tactile patterns containing symmetry remains unclear. We compared the behavioral performance of early blind and sighted (blindfolded) controls on a tactile symmetry detection task. The tactile patterns used were similar in design and complexity as in previous visual perceptual studies. The neural correlates associated with this behavioral task were identified with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In line with growing evidence demonstrating enhanced tactile processing abilities in the blind, we found that early blind individuals showed significantly superior performance in detecting tactile symmetric patterns compared to sighted controls. Furthermore, comparing patterns of activation between these two groups identified common areas of activation (e.g. superior parietal cortex) but key differences also emerged. In particular, tactile symmetry detection in the early blind was also associated with activation that included peri-calcarine cortex, lateral occipital (LO), and middle temporal (MT) cortex, as well as inferior temporal and fusiform cortex. These results contribute to the growing evidence supporting superior behavioral abilities in the blind, and the neural correlates associated with crossmodal neuroplasticity following visual deprivation.
BACKGROUND: Deterministic diffusion tractography obtained from high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) requires user-defined quantitative anisotropy (QA) thresholds. Most studies employ a common threshold across all subjects even though there is a strong degree of individual variation within groups. We sought to explore whether it would be beneficial to use individual thresholds in order to accommodate individual variance. To do this, we conducted two independent experiments. METHOD: First, tractography of the arcuate fasciculus and network connectivity measures were examined in a sample of 14 healthy participants. Second, we assessed the effects of QA threshold on group differences in network connectivity measures between healthy young (n=19) and old (n=14) individuals. RESULTS: The results of both experiments were significantly influenced by QA threshold. Common thresholds set too high failed to produce sufficient reconstructions in most subjects, thus decreasing the likelihood of detecting meaningful group differences. On the other hand, common thresholds set too low resulted in spurious reconstructions, providing deleterious results. COMPARISON WITH EXISTING METHODS: Subject specific thresholds acquired using our QA threshold selection method (QATS) appeared to provide the most meaningful networks while ensuring that data from all subjects contributed to the analyses. CONCLUSIONS: Together, these results support the use of a subject-specific threshold to ensure that data from all subjects are included in the analyses being conducted.
Growing evidence demonstrates dramatic structural and functional neuroplastic changes in individuals born with early-onset blindness. For example, cross-modal sensory processing at the level of the occipital cortex appears to be associated with adaptive behaviors in the blind. However, detailed studies examining the structural properties of key white matter pathways in other regions of the brain remain limited. Given that blind individuals rely heavily on their sense of hearing, we examined the structural properties of two important pathways involved with auditory processing, namely the uncinate and arcuate fasciculi. High angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) tractography was used to examine structural parameters (i.e., tract volume and quantitative anisotropy, or QA) of these two fasciculi in a sample of 13 early blind individuals and 14 normally sighted controls. Compared to controls, early blind individuals showed a significant increase in the volume of the left uncinate fasciculus. A small area of increased QA was also observed halfway along the right arcuate fasciculus in the blind group. These findings contribute to our knowledge regarding the broad neuroplastic changes associated with profound early blindness.
Defining the connections among neurons is critical to our understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system. Recombinant viruses engineered to transmit across synapses provide a powerful approach for the dissection of neuronal circuitry in vivo. We recently demonstrated that recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) can be endowed with anterograde or retrograde transsynaptic tracing ability by providing the virus with different glycoproteins. Here we extend the characterization of the transmission and gene expression of recombinant VSV (rVSV) with the rabies virus glycoprotein (RABV-G), and provide examples of its activity relative to the anterograde transsynaptic tracer form of rVSV. rVSV with RABV-G was found to drive strong expression of transgenes and to spread rapidly from neuron to neuron in only a retrograde manner. Depending upon how the RABV-G was delivered, VSV served as a polysynaptic or monosynaptic tracer, or was able to define projections through axonal uptake and retrograde transport. In animals co-infected with rVSV in its anterograde form, rVSV with RABV-G could be used to begin to characterize the similarities and differences in connections to different areas. rVSV with RABV-G provides a flexible, rapid, and versatile tracing tool that complements the previously described VSV-based anterograde transsynaptic tracer.
When walking without vision, people mentally keep track of the directions and distances of previously viewed objects, a process called spatial updating. The current experiment indicates that while people across a large age range are able to update multiple targets in memory without perceptual support, aging negatively affects accuracy, precision, and decision time. Participants (20 to 80 years of age) viewed one, three, or six targets (colored lights) on the floor of a dimly lit room. Then, without vision, they walked to a target designated by color, either directly or indirectly (via a forward turning point). The younger adults' final stopping points were both accurate (near target) and precise (narrowly dispersed), but updating performance did degrade slightly with the number of targets. Older adults' performance was consistently worse than the younger group, but the lack of interaction between age and memory load indicates that the effect of age on performance was not further exacerbated by a greater number of targets. The number of targets also significantly increased the latency required to turn toward the designated target for both age groups. Taken together, results extend previous work showing impressive updating performance by younger adults, with novel findings showing that older adults manifest small but consistent degradation of updating performance of multitarget arrays.
The optic nerve has been widely used to investigate factors that regulate axon regeneration in the mammalian CNS. Although retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the projection neurons of the eye, show little capacity to regenerate their axons following optic nerve damage, studies spanning the 20(th) century showed that some RGCs can regenerate axons through a segment of peripheral nerve grafted to the optic nerve. More recently, some degree of regeneration has been achieved through the optic nerve itself by factors associated with intraocular inflammation (oncomodulin) or by altering levels of particular transcription factors (Klf-4, -9, c-myc), cell-intrinsic suppressors of axon growth (PTEN, SOCS3), receptors to cell-extrinsic inhibitors of axon growth (Nogo receptor, LAR, PTP-σ) or the intracellular signaling pathway activated by these receptors (RhoA). Other regulators of regeneration and cell survival continue to be identified in this system at a rapid pace. Combinatorial treatments that include two or more of these factors enable some retinal ganglion cells to regenerate axons from the eye through the entire length of the optic nerve and across the optic chiasm. In some cases, regenerating axons have been shown to innervate the appropriate central target areas and elicit postsynaptic responses. Many discoveries made in this system have been found to enhance axon regeneration after spinal cord injury. Thus, progress in optic nerve regeneration holds promise not only for visual restoration but also for improving outcome after injury to other parts of the mature CNS.
OBJECTIVE: This case series is the first to describe divergence palsy as an adverse effect of antiepileptic drug use. Diplopia is a common adverse effect of antiepileptic drugs, but no explanatory motility deficit has ever been reported. METHODS: We present 2 patients, 1 on oxcarbazepine and 1 on divalproex, each with a normal examination result between spells and divergency palsy when symptomatic. RESULTS: Discontinuation of the antiepileptic medication led to resolution of the episodes in both cases. Rechallenge with the offending agent after washout in one patient resulted in recurrence of diplopia and divergence palsy, both resolving after subsequent withdrawal of the antiepileptic. CONCLUSIONS: Antiepileptic drugs may cause divergence palsy.
BACKGROUND: Transient monocular vision loss (TMVL) is an alarming symptom owing to potentially serious etiologies such as thromboembolism or giant cell arteritis. Our objective is to describe the phenomenon of TMVL present on awakening, which may represent a distinct and benign entity. METHODS: We performed a retrospective observational case series of 29 patients who experienced TMVL on awakening. Patients who described monocular dimming or blackout of vision were included, and those with blurred vision, concurrent eye pain, and binocular vision loss were excluded. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the study population. RESULTS: Of the 29 patients we studied, 90% (n = 26) were female and 48% had crowded discs (cup-to-disc ratio ≤0.2). The mean age was 45.4 years, although women were significantly younger than men (mean ages 43.4 and 62.7 years, respectively, P = 0.017). Brain magnetic resonance imaging and vascular imaging (magnetic resonance angiography, computed tomographic angiography, or carotid Doppler) were performed in 69% and 55% of cases, respectively, and were uniformly negative. In 14 patients for whom clear follow-up data could be obtained, no medically or visually significant sequelae of this syndrome were found, and 50% experienced resolution of symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: Evaluation was uniformly negative when patients described waking with isolated vision loss in 1 eye with subsequent resolution, usually in less than 15 minutes. The natural history seems benign with symptoms frequently remitting spontaneously. This visual phenomenon may represent an autoregulatory failure resulting in a supply/demand mismatch during low-light conditions.
There are no data in the literature regarding the safety of re-treatment with ethambutol for recurrent mycobacterial infection after prior ethambutol-induced optic neuropathy. We describe a patient who developed optic neuropathy attributed to ethambutol, recovered fully after drug withdrawal, and tolerated a 14-month long re-treatment 10 years later without developing recurrent optic neuropathy.