Mobility Enhancement & Vision Rehabilitation

Mobility Enhancement & Vision Rehabilitation Publications

Cattaneo Z, Lega C, Rinaldi L, Fantino M, Ferrari C, Merabet LB, Vecchi T. The Spatial Musical Association of Response Codes does not depend on a normal visual experience: A study with early blind individuals. Atten Percept Psychophys 2018;Abstract
Converging evidence suggests that the perception of auditory pitch exhibits a characteristic spatial organization. This pitch-space association can be demonstrated experimentally by the Spatial Musical Association of Response Codes (SMARC) effect. This is characterized by faster response times when a low-positioned key is pressed in response to a low-pitched tone, and a high-positioned key is pressed in response to a high-pitched tone. To investigate whether the development of this pitch-space association is mediated by normal visual experience, we tested a group of early blind individuals on a task that required them to discriminate the timbre of different instrument sounds with varying pitch. Results revealed a comparable pattern in the SMARC effect in both blind participants and sighted controls, suggesting that the lack of prior visual experience does not prevent the development of an association between pitch height and vertical space.
Houston KE, Peli E, Goldstein RB, Bowers AR. Driving With Hemianopia VI: Peripheral Prisms and Perceptual-Motor Training Improve Detection in a Driving Simulator. Transl Vis Sci Technol 2018;7(1):5.Abstract
Purpose: Drivers with homonymous hemianopia (HH) were previously found to have impaired detection of blind-side hazards, yet in many jurisdictions they may obtain a license. We evaluated whether oblique 57Δ peripheral prisms (p-prisms) and perceptual-motor training improved blind-side detection rates. Methods: Patients with HH (n = 11) wore p-prisms for 2 weeks and then received perceptual-motor training (six visits) detecting and touching stimuli in the prism-expanded vision. In a driving simulator, patients drove and pressed the horn upon detection of pedestrians who ran toward the roadway (26 from each side): (1) without p-prisms at baseline; (2) with p-prisms after 2 weeks acclimation but before training; (3) with p-prisms after training; and (4) 3 months later. Results: P-prisms improved blind-side detection from 42% to 56%, which further improved after training to 72% (all P < 0.001). Blind-side timely responses (adequate time to have stopped) improved from 31% without to 44% with p-prisms (P < 0.001) and further improved with training to 55% (P = 0.02). At the 3-month follow-up, improvements from training were maintained for detection (65%; P = 0.02) but not timely responses (P = 0.725). There was wide between-subject variability in baseline detection performance and response to p-prisms. There were no negative effects of p-prisms on vehicle control or seeing-side performance. Conclusions: P-prisms improved detection with no negative effects, and training may provide additional benefit. Translational Relevance: In jurisdictions where people with HH are legally driving, these data aid in clinical decision making by providing evidence that p-prisms improve performance without negative effects.
Wang S, Woods RL, Costela FM, Luo G. Dynamic gaze-position prediction of saccadic eye movements using a Taylor series. J Vis 2017;17(14):3.Abstract
Gaze-contingent displays have been widely used in vision research and virtual reality applications. Due to data transmission, image processing, and display preparation, the time delay between the eye tracker and the monitor update may lead to a misalignment between the eye position and the image manipulation during eye movements. We propose a method to reduce the misalignment using a Taylor series to predict the saccadic eye movement. The proposed method was evaluated using two large datasets including 219,335 human saccades (collected with an EyeLink 1000 system, 95% range from 1° to 32°) and 21,844 monkey saccades (collected with a scleral search coil, 95% range from 1° to 9°). When assuming a 10-ms time delay, the prediction of saccade movements using the proposed method could reduce the misalignment greater than the state-of-the-art methods. The average error was about 0.93° for human saccades and 0.26° for monkey saccades. Our results suggest that this proposed saccade prediction method will create more accurate gaze-contingent displays.
Kim JS, Kanjlia S, Merabet LB, Bedny M. Development of the Visual Word Form Area Requires Visual Experience: Evidence from Blind Braille Readers. J Neurosci 2017;37(47):11495-11504.Abstract
Learning to read causes the development of a letter- and word-selective region known as the visual word form area (VWFA) within the human ventral visual object stream. Why does a reading-selective region develop at this anatomical location? According to one hypothesis, the VWFA develops at the nexus of visual inputs from retinotopic cortices and linguistic input from the frontotemporal language network because reading involves extracting linguistic information from visual symbols. Surprisingly, the anatomical location of the VWFA is also active when blind individuals read Braille by touch, suggesting that vision is not required for the development of the VWFA. In this study, we tested the alternative prediction that VWFA development is in fact influenced by visual experience. We predicted that in the absence of vision, the "VWFA" is incorporated into the frontotemporal language network and participates in high-level language processing. Congenitally blind (n = 10, 9 female, 1 male) and sighted control (n = 15, 9 female, 6 male), male and female participants each took part in two functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments: (1) word reading (Braille for blind and print for sighted participants), and (2) listening to spoken sentences of different grammatical complexity (both groups). We find that in blind, but not sighted participants, the anatomical location of the VWFA responds both to written words and to the grammatical complexity of spoken sentences. This suggests that in blindness, this region takes on high-level linguistic functions, becoming less selective for reading. More generally, the current findings suggest that experience during development has a major effect on functional specialization in the human cortex.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The visual word form area (VWFA) is a region in the human cortex that becomes specialized for the recognition of written letters and words. Why does this particular brain region become specialized for reading? We tested the hypothesis that the VWFA develops within the ventral visual stream because reading involves extracting linguistic information from visual symbols. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that in congenitally blind Braille readers, but not sighted readers of print, the VWFA region is active during grammatical processing of spoken sentences. These results suggest that visual experience contributes to VWFA specialization, and that different neural implementations of reading are possible.
Wolfe JM. Visual Attention: Size Matters. Curr Biol 2017;27(18):R1002-R1003.Abstract
When searching real-world scenes, human attention is guided by knowledge of the plausible size of target object (if an object is six feet tall, it isn't your cat). Computer algorithms typically do not do this, but perhaps they should.
Ferrari C, Vecchi T, Merabet LB, Cattaneo Z. Blindness and social trust: The effect of early visual deprivation on judgments of trustworthiness. Conscious Cogn 2017;55:156-164.Abstract
Investigating the impact of early visual deprivation on evaluations related to social trust has received little attention to date. This is despite consistent evidence suggesting that early onset blindness may interfere with the normal development of social skills. In this study, we investigated whether early blindness affects judgments of trustworthiness regarding the actions of an agent, with trustworthiness representing the fundamental dimension in the social evaluation. Specifically, we compared performance between a group of early blind individuals with that of sighted controls in their evaluation of trustworthiness of an agent after hearing a pair of two positive or two negative social behaviors (impression formation). Participants then repeated the same evaluation following the presentation of a third (consistent or inconsistent) behavior regarding the same agent (impression updating). Overall, blind individuals tended to give similar evaluations compared to their sighted counterparts. However, they also valued positive behaviors significantly more than sighted controls when forming their impression of an agent's trustworthiness. Moreover, when inconsistent information was provided, blind individuals were more prone to revise their initial evaluation compared to controls. These results suggest that early visual deprivation may have a dramatic effect on the evaluation of social factors such as trustworthiness.
Isik L, Singer J, Madsen JR, Kanwisher N, Kreiman G. What is changing when: Decoding visual information in movies from human intracranial recordings. Neuroimage 2017;Abstract
The majority of visual recognition studies have focused on the neural responses to repeated presentations of static stimuli with abrupt and well-defined onset and offset times. In contrast, natural vision involves unique renderings of visual inputs that are continuously changing without explicitly defined temporal transitions. Here we considered commercial movies as a coarse proxy to natural vision. We recorded intracranial field potential signals from 1,284 electrodes implanted in 15 patients with epilepsy while the subjects passively viewed commercial movies. We could rapidly detect large changes in the visual inputs within approximately 100 ms of their occurrence, using exclusively field potential signals from ventral visual cortical areas including the inferior temporal gyrus and inferior occipital gyrus. Furthermore, we could decode the content of those visual changes even in a single movie presentation, generalizing across the wide range of transformations present in a movie. These results present a methodological framework for studying cognition during dynamic and natural vision.
Peli E, Jung J-H. Multiplexing Prisms for Field Expansion. Optom Vis Sci 2017;94(8):817-829.Abstract
PURPOSE: Prisms used for field expansion are limited by the optical scotoma at a prism apex (apical scotoma). For a patient with two functioning eyes, fitting prisms unilaterally allows the other eye to compensate for the apical scotoma. A monocular patient's field loss cannot be expanded with a conventional or Fresnel prism because of the apical scotoma. A newly invented optical device, the multiplexing prism (MxP), was developed to overcome the apical scotoma limitation in monocular field expansion. METHODS: A Fresnel-prism-like device with alternating prism and flat elements superimposes shifted and see-through views, thus creating the (monocular) visual confusion required for field expansion and eliminating the apical scotoma. Several implementations are demonstrated and preliminarily evaluated for different monocular conditions with visual field loss. The field expansion of the MxP is compared with the effect of conventional prisms using calculated and measured perimetry. RESULTS: Field expansion without apical scotomas is shown to be effective for monocular patients with hemianopia or constricted peripheral field. The MxPs are shown to increase the nasal field for a patient with only one eye and for patients with bitemporal hemianopia. The MxPs placed at the far temporal field are shown to expand the normal visual field. The ability to control the contrast ratio between the two images is verified. CONCLUSIONS: A novel optical device is demonstrated to have the potential for field expansion technology in a variety of conditions. The devices may be inexpensive and can be constructed in a cosmetically acceptable format.
Occelli V, Lacey S, Stephens C, Merabet LB, Sathian K. Enhanced verbal abilities in the congenitally blind. Exp Brain Res 2017;235(6):1709-1718.Abstract
Numerous studies have found that congenitally blind individuals have better verbal memory than their normally sighted counterparts. However, it is not known whether this reflects superiority of verbal or memory abilities. In order to distinguish between these possibilities, we tested congenitally blind participants and normally sighted control participants, matched for age and education, on a range of verbal and spatial tasks. Congenitally blind participants were significantly better than sighted controls on all the verbal tasks but the groups did not differ significantly on the spatial tasks. Thus, the congenitally blind appear to have superior verbal, but not spatial, abilities. This may reflect greater reliance on verbal information and the involvement of visual cortex in language processing in the congenitally blind.
Houston KE, Paschalis EI, Angueira DC, Bronstad MP, Barrett AM, Iaccarino MA. Restoration of Vision After Brain Injury Using Magnet Glasses. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2017;96(4):e70-e74.Abstract

Visual impairments are common after traumatic brain injury (TBI) and negatively affect quality of life. We describe a 39-year-old woman with a severe TBI who was evaluated by the inpatient optometry and vision rehabilitation service with findings of complete right homonymous hemianopia and right cranial nerve III palsy with 30-degree right exotropia (eye turn out) and complete right ptosis (eyelid will not open). The 30-degree exotropia advantageously generated 30 degrees of right visual field expansion when the right ptosis was treated with a magnetic levator prosthesis, which restores eyelid opening. Once opened, the patient used visual field expansion derived from a right exotropia to overcome functional impairments caused by right hemianopia. Field expansion improved the patient's wheelchair mobility and reaching tasks during inpatient therapy. This is the first report of visual field expansion by strabismus facilitated by correction of ptosis. Strabismus should be considered for its potential field expansion benefits when homonymous visual deficits are present, before considering patching. A multidisciplinary vision rehabilitation team is well suited to make this determination.

Houston KE, Barrett AM. Patching for Diplopia Contraindicated in Patients with Brain Injury?. Optom Vis Sci 2017;94(1):120-124.Abstract

PURPOSE: Patching for double vision is a common palliative treatment for head-trauma patients with acquired strabismus when prisms are not feasible. METHODS: We review literature on spatial neglect and discuss possible effects of monocular occlusion on spatial attention. RESULTS: Patching the left eye has been shown to worsen spatial judgments in some brain-injured patients with left neglect by inhibiting the right superior colliculus further impairing contralateral leftward orienting (the Sprague Effect). CONCLUSIONS: Because more peripheral parts of the visual field increasingly project to the contralateral superior colliculus with the temporal crescent being entirely contralateral, avoiding patching of the temporal crescent was advised, and in most cases can be achieved by taping off the spectacle lens and avoiding an elastic eye patch.

Bowers AR, Sheldon SS, DeCarlo DK, Peli E. Bioptic Telescope Use and Driving Patterns of Drivers with Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Transl Vis Sci Technol 2016;5(5):5.Abstract

PURPOSE: To investigate the telescope use and driving patterns of bioptic drivers with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). METHODS: A questionnaire addressing telescope use and driving patterns was administered by telephone interview to three groups of bioptic drivers: AMD (n = 31; median 76 years); non-AMD first licensed with a bioptic (n = 38; 53 years); and non-AMD first licensed without a bioptic (n = 47; 37 years). Driving patterns of bioptic AMD drivers were also compared with those of normal vision (NV) drivers (n = 36; 74 years) and nonbioptic AMD drivers (n = 34; 79 years). RESULTS: Bioptic usage patterns of AMD drivers did not differ from those of the younger bioptic drivers and greater visual difficulty without the bioptic was strongly correlated with greater bioptic helpfulness. Bioptic AMD drivers were more likely to report avoidance of night driving than the age-similar NV drivers (P = 0.06). However, they reported less difficulty than the nonbioptic AMD drivers in all driving situations (P ≤ 0.02). Weekly mileages of bioptic AMD drivers were lower than those of the younger bioptic drivers (P < 0.001), but not the NV group (P = 0.54), and were higher than those of the nonbioptic AMD group (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that bioptic telescopes met the visual demands of drivers with AMD and that those drivers had relatively unrestricted driving habits. TRANSLATIONAL RELEVANCE: Licensure with a bioptic telescope may prolong driving of older adults with AMD; however, objective measures of bioptic use, driving performance, and safety are needed.

Bowers AR. Driving with homonymous visual field loss: a review of the literature. Clin Exp Optom 2016;99(5):402-18.Abstract

Driving is an important rehabilitation goal for patients with homonymous field defects (HFDs); however, whether or not people with HFDs should be permitted to drive is not clear. Over the last 15 years, there has been a marked increase in the number of studies evaluating the effects of HFDs on driving performance. This review of the literature provides a much-needed summary for practitioners and researchers, addressing the following topics: regulations pertaining to driving with HFDs, self-reported driving difficulties, pass rates in on-road tests, the effects of HFDs on lane position and steering stability, the effects of HFDs on scanning and detection of potential hazards, screening for potential fitness to drive, evaluating practical fitness to drive and the efficacy of interventions to improve driving of persons with HFDs. Although there is clear evidence from on-road studies that some people with HFDs may be rated as safe to drive, others are reported to have significant deficits in skills important for safe driving, including taking a lane position too close to one side of the travel lane, unstable steering and inadequate viewing (scanning) behaviour. Driving simulator studies have provided strong evidence of a wide range in compensatory scanning abilities and detection performance, despite similar amounts of visual field loss. Conventional measurements of visual field extent (in which eye movements are not permitted) do not measure such compensatory abilities and are not predictive of on-road driving performance. Thus, there is a need to develop better tests to screen people with HFDs for visual fitness to drive. We are not yet at a point where we can predict which HFD patient is likely to be a safe driver. Therefore, it seems only fair to provide an opportunity for individualised assessments of practical fitness to drive either on the road and/or in a driving simulator.

Wolfe JM, Evans KK, Drew T, Aizenman A, Josephs E. HOW DO RADIOLOGISTS USE THE HUMAN SEARCH ENGINE?. Radiat Prot Dosimetry 2016;169(1-4):24-31.Abstract

Radiologists perform many 'visual search tasks' in which they look for one or more instances of one or more types of target item in a medical image (e.g. cancer screening). To understand and improve how radiologists do such tasks, it must be understood how the human 'search engine' works. This article briefly reviews some of the relevant work into this aspect of medical image perception. Questions include how attention and the eyes are guided in radiologic search? How is global (image-wide) information used in search? How might properties of human vision and human cognition lead to errors in radiologic search?

Peli E, Bowers AR, Keeney K, Jung J-H. High-Power Prismatic Devices for Oblique Peripheral Prisms. Optom Vis Sci 2016;93(5):521-33.Abstract

PURPOSE: Horizontal peripheral prisms for hemianopia provide field expansion above and below the horizontal meridian; however, there is a vertical gap leaving the central area (important for driving) without expansion. In the oblique design, tilting the bases of both prism segments toward the horizontal meridian moves the field expansion area vertically and centrally (closing the central gap) while the prisms remain in the peripheral location. However, tilting the prisms results also in a reduction of the lateral field expansion. Higher prism powers are needed to counter this effect. METHODS: We developed, implemented, and tested a series of designs aimed at increasing the prism power to reduce the central gap while maintaining wide lateral expansion. The designs included inserting the peripheral prisms into carrier lenses that included yoked prism in the opposite direction, combination of two Fresnel segments attached at the base and angled to each other (bi-part prisms), and creating Fresnel prism-like segments from nonparallel periscopic mirror pairs (reflective prisms). RESULTS: A modest increase in lateral power was achieved with yoked-prism carriers. Bi-part combination of 36Δ Fresnel segments provided high power with some reduction in image quality. Fresnel reflective prism segments have potential for high power with superior optical quality but may be limited in field extent or by interruptions of the expanded field. Extended apical scotomas, even with unilateral fitting, may limit the utility of very high power prisms. The high-power bi-part and reflective prisms enable a wider effective eye scanning range (more than 15 degrees) into the blind hemifield. CONCLUSIONS: Conventional prisms of powers higher than the available 57Δ are limited by the binocular impact of a wider apical scotoma and a reduced effective eye scanning range to the blind side. The various designs that we developed may overcome these limitations and find use in various other field expansion applications.