Mobility Enhancement & Vision Rehabilitation

Jackson ML, Bex PJ, Ellison JM, Wicks P, Wallis J. Feasibility of a web-based survey of hallucinations and assessment of visual function in patients with Parkinson's disease. Interact J Med Res 2014;3(1):e1.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) experience visual hallucinations, which may be related to decreased contrast sensitivity (ie, the ability to discern shades of grey). OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to investigate if an online research platform can be used to survey patients with Parkinson's disease regarding visual hallucinations, and also be used to assess visual contrast perception. METHODS: From the online patient community, PatientsLikeMe, 964 members were invited via email to participate in this study. Participants completed a modified version of the University of Miami Parkinson's disease hallucinations questionnaire and an online vision test. RESULTS: The study was completed by 27.9% (269/964) of those who were invited: 56.9% of this group had PD (153/269) and 43.1% (116/269) were non-Parkinson's controls. Hallucinations were reported by 18.3% (28/153) of the Parkinson's group. Although 10 subjects (9%) in the control group reported experiencing hallucinations, only 2 of them actually described formed hallucinations. Participants with Parkinson's disease with a mean of 1.75 (SD 0.35) and the control group with a mean of 1.85 (SD 0.36) showed relatively good contrast perception as measured with the online letter test (P=.07). People who reported hallucinations showed contrast sensitivity levels that did not differ from levels shown by people without hallucinations (P=.96), although there was a trend towards lower contrast sensitivity in hallucinators. CONCLUSIONS: Although more Parkinson's responders reported visual hallucinations, a significant number of non-Parkinson's control group responders also reported visual hallucinations. The online survey method may have failed to distinguish between formed hallucinations, which are typical in Parkinson's disease, and non-formed hallucinations that have less diagnostic specificity. Multiple questions outlining the nature of the hallucinations are required. In a clinical interview, the specific nature of the hallucination would be further refined to rule out a vague description that does not indicate a true, formed visual hallucination. Contrary to previous literature, both groups showed relatively good contrast sensitivity, perhaps representing a ceiling effect or limitations of online testing conditions that are difficult to standardize. Steps can be taken in future trials to further standardize online visual function testing, to refine control group parameters and to take steps to rule out confounding variables such as comorbid disease that could be associated with hallucinations. Contacting subjects via an online health social network is a novel, cost-effective method of conducting vision research that allows large numbers of individuals to be contacted quickly, and refinement of questionnaires and visual function testing may allow more robust findings in future research.
Hwang AD, Peli E. Instability of the perceived world while watching 3D stereoscopic imagery: A likely source of motion sickness symptoms. Iperception 2014;5(6):515-35.Abstract
Watching 3D content using a stereoscopic display may cause various discomforting symptoms, including eye strain, blurred vision, double vision, and motion sickness. Numerous studies have reported motion-sickness-like symptoms during stereoscopic viewing, but no causal linkage between specific aspects of the presentation and the induced discomfort has been explicitly proposed. Here, we describe several causes, in which stereoscopic capture, display, and viewing differ from natural viewing resulting in static and, importantly, dynamic distortions that conflict with the expected stability and rigidity of the real world. This analysis provides a basis for suggested changes to display systems that may alleviate the symptoms, and suggestions for future studies to determine the relative contribution of the various effects to the unpleasant symptoms.
Jung J-H, Peli E. Impact of high power and angle of incidence on prism corrections for visual field loss. Opt Eng 2014;53(6)Abstract
Prism distortions and spurious reflections are not usually considered when prescribing prisms to compensate for visual field loss due to homonymous hemianopia. Distortions and reflections in the high power Fresnel prisms used in peripheral prism placement can be considerable, and the simplifying assumption that prism deflection power is independent of angle of incidence into the prisms results in substantial errors. We analyze the effects of high prism power and incidence angle on the field expansion, size of the apical scotomas, and image compression/expansion. We analyze and illustrate the effects of reflections within the Fresnel prisms, primarily due to reflections at the bases, and secondarily due to surface reflections. The strength and location of these effects differs materially depending on whether the serrated prismatic surface is placed toward or away from the eye, and this affects the contribution of the reflections to visual confusion, diplopia, false alarms, and loss of contrast. We conclude with suggestions for controlling and mitigating these effects in clinical practice.
Thornton IM, Bülthoff HH, Horowitz TS, Rynning A, Lee S-W. Interactive multiple object tracking (iMOT). PLoS One 2014;9(2):e86974.Abstract
We introduce a new task for exploring the relationship between action and attention. In this interactive multiple object tracking (iMOT) task, implemented as an iPad app, participants were presented with a display of multiple, visually identical disks which moved independently. The task was to prevent any collisions during a fixed duration. Participants could perturb object trajectories via the touchscreen. In Experiment 1, we used a staircase procedure to measure the ability to control moving objects. Object speed was set to 1°/s. On average participants could control 8.4 items without collision. Individual control strategies were quite variable, but did not predict overall performance. In Experiment 2, we compared iMOT with standard MOT performance using identical displays. Object speed was set to 2°/s. Participants could reliably control more objects (M = 6.6) than they could track (M = 4.0), but performance in the two tasks was positively correlated. In Experiment 3, we used a dual-task design. Compared to single-task baseline, iMOT performance decreased and MOT performance increased when the two tasks had to be completed together. Overall, these findings suggest: 1) There is a clear limit to the number of items that can be simultaneously controlled, for a given speed and display density; 2) participants can control more items than they can track; 3) task-relevant action appears not to disrupt MOT performance in the current experimental context.
Sánchez J, de Borba Campos M, Espinoza M, Merabet LB. Audio Haptic Videogaming for Developing Wayfinding Skills in Learners Who are Blind. IUI 2014;2014:199-208.Abstract
Interactive digital technologies are currently being developed as a novel tool for education and skill development. Audiopolis is an audio and haptic based videogame designed for developing orientation and mobility (O&M) skills in people who are blind. We have evaluated the cognitive impact of videogame play on O&M skills by assessing performance on a series of behavioral tasks carried out in both indoor and outdoor virtual spaces. Our results demonstrate that the use of Audiopolis had a positive impact on the development and use of O&M skills in school-aged learners who are blind. The impact of audio and haptic information on learning is also discussed.
Bowers AR, Ananyev E, Mandel AJ, Goldstein RB, Peli E. Driving with hemianopia: IV. Head scanning and detection at intersections in a simulator. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2014;55(3):1540-8.Abstract
PURPOSE: Using a driving simulator, we examined the effects of homonymous hemianopia (HH) on head scanning behaviors at intersections and evaluated the role of inadequate head scanning in detection failures. METHODS: Fourteen people with complete HH and without cognitive decline or visual neglect and 12 normally sighted (NV) current drivers participated. They drove in an urban environment following predetermined routes, which included multiple intersections. Head scanning behaviors were quantified at T-intersections (n = 32) with a stop or yield sign. Participants also performed a pedestrian detection task. The relationship between head scanning and detection was examined at 10 intersections. RESULTS: For HH drivers, the first scan was more likely to be toward the blind than the seeing hemifield. They also made a greater proportion of head scans overall to the blind side than did the NV drivers to the corresponding side (P = 0.003). However, head scan magnitudes of HH drivers were smaller than those of the NV group (P < 0.001). Drivers with HH had impaired detection of blind-side pedestrians due either to not scanning in the direction of the pedestrian or to an insufficient scan magnitude (left HH detected only 46% and right HH 8% at the extreme left and right of the intersection, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Drivers with HH demonstrated compensatory head scan patterns, but not scan magnitudes. Inadequate scanning resulted in blind-side detection failures, which might place HH drivers at increased risk for collisions at intersections. Scanning training tailored to specific problem areas identified in this study might be beneficial.
Connors EC, Chrastil ER, Sánchez J, Merabet LB. Virtual environments for the transfer of navigation skills in the blind: a comparison of directed instruction vs. video game based learning approaches. Front Hum Neurosci 2014;8:223.Abstract
For profoundly blind individuals, navigating in an unfamiliar building can represent a significant challenge. We investigated the use of an audio-based, virtual environment called Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) that can be explored for the purposes of learning the layout of an unfamiliar, complex indoor environment. Furthermore, we compared two modes of interaction with AbES. In one group, blind participants implicitly learned the layout of a target environment while playing an exploratory, goal-directed video game. By comparison, a second group was explicitly taught the same layout following a standard route and instructions provided by a sighted facilitator. As a control, a third group interacted with AbES while playing an exploratory, goal-directed video game however, the explored environment did not correspond to the target layout. Following interaction with AbES, a series of route navigation tasks were carried out in the virtual and physical building represented in the training environment to assess the transfer of acquired spatial information. We found that participants from both modes of interaction were able to transfer the spatial knowledge gained as indexed by their successful route navigation performance. This transfer was not apparent in the control participants. Most notably, the game-based learning strategy was also associated with enhanced performance when participants were required to find alternate routes and short cuts within the target building suggesting that a ludic-based training approach may provide for a more flexible mental representation of the environment. Furthermore, outcome comparisons between early and late blind individuals suggested that greater prior visual experience did not have a significant effect on overall navigation performance following training. Finally, performance did not appear to be associated with other factors of interest such as age, gender, and verbal memory recall. We conclude that the highly interactive and immersive exploration of the virtual environment greatly engages a blind user to develop skills akin to positive near transfer of learning. Learning through a game play strategy appears to confer certain behavioral advantages with respect to how spatial information is acquired and ultimately manipulated for navigation.
Alberti CF, Horowitz T, Bronstad MP, Bowers AR. Visual attention measures predict pedestrian detection in central field loss: a pilot study. PLoS One 2014;9(2):e89381.Abstract
PURPOSE: The ability of visually impaired people to deploy attention effectively to maximize use of their residual vision in dynamic situations is fundamental to safe mobility. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate whether tests of dynamic attention (multiple object tracking; MOT) and static attention (Useful Field of View; UFOV) were predictive of the ability of people with central field loss (CFL) to detect pedestrian hazards in simulated driving. METHODS: 11 people with bilateral CFL (visual acuity 20/30-20/200) and 11 age-similar normally-sighted drivers participated. Dynamic and static attention were evaluated with brief, computer-based MOT and UFOV tasks, respectively. Dependent variables were the log speed threshold for 60% correct identification of targets (MOT) and the increase in the presentation duration for 75% correct identification of a central target when a concurrent peripheral task was added (UFOV divided and selective attention subtests). Participants drove in a simulator and pressed the horn whenever they detected pedestrians that walked or ran toward the road. The dependent variable was the proportion of timely reactions (could have stopped in time to avoid a collision). RESULTS: UFOV and MOT performance of CFL participants was poorer than that of controls, and the proportion of timely reactions was also lower (worse) (84% and 97%, respectively; p = 0.001). For CFL participants, higher proportions of timely reactions correlated significantly with higher (better) MOT speed thresholds (r = 0.73, p = 0.01), with better performance on the UFOV divided and selective attention subtests (r = -0.66 and -0.62, respectively, p<0.04), with better contrast sensitivity scores (r = 0.54, p = 0.08) and smaller scotomas (r = -0.60, p = 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that brief laboratory-based tests of visual attention may provide useful measures of functional visual ability of individuals with CFL relevant to more complex mobility tasks.
Bowers AR, Keeney K, Peli E. Randomized crossover clinical trial of real and sham peripheral prism glasses for hemianopia. JAMA Ophthalmol 2014;132(2):214-22.Abstract
IMPORTANCE: There is a major lack of randomized controlled clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of prismatic treatments for hemianopia. Evidence for their effectiveness is mostly based on anecdotal case reports and open-label evaluations without a control condition. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of real relative to sham peripheral prism glasses for patients with complete homonymous hemianopia. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Double-masked, randomized crossover trial at 13 study sites, including the Peli laboratory at Schepens Eye Research Institute, 11 vision rehabilitation clinics in the United States, and 1 in the United Kingdom. Patients were 18 years or older with complete homonymous hemianopia for at least 3 months and without visual neglect or significant cognitive decline. INTERVENTION: Patients were allocated by minimization into 2 groups. One group received real (57-prism diopter) oblique and sham (<5-prism diopter) horizontal prisms; the other received real horizontal and sham oblique, in counterbalanced order. Each crossover period was 4 weeks. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome was the overall difference, across the 2 periods of the crossover, between the proportion of participants who wanted to continue with (said yes to) real prisms and the proportion who said yes to sham prisms. The secondary outcome was the difference in perceived mobility improvement between real and sham prisms. RESULTS: Of 73 patients randomized, 61 completed the crossover. A significantly higher proportion said yes to real than sham prisms (64% vs 36%; odds ratio, 5.3; 95% CI, 1.8-21.0). Participants who continued wear after 6 months reported greater improvement in mobility with real than sham prisms at crossover end (P = .002); participants who discontinued wear reported no difference. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Real peripheral prism glasses were more helpful for obstacle avoidance when walking than sham glasses, with no differences between the horizontal and oblique designs. Peripheral prism glasses provide a simple and inexpensive mobility rehabilitation intervention for hemianopia. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT00494676.
Connors EC, Chrastil ER, Sánchez J, Merabet LB. Action video game play and transfer of navigation and spatial cognition skills in adolescents who are blind. Front Hum Neurosci 2014;8:133.Abstract
For individuals who are blind, navigating independently in an unfamiliar environment represents a considerable challenge. Inspired by the rising popularity of video games, we have developed a novel approach to train navigation and spatial cognition skills in adolescents who are blind. Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is a software application that allows for the virtual exploration of an existing building set in an action video game metaphor. Using this ludic-based approach to learning, we investigated the ability and efficacy of adolescents with early onset blindness to acquire spatial information gained from the exploration of a target virtual indoor environment. Following game play, participants were assessed on their ability to transfer and mentally manipulate acquired spatial information on a set of navigation tasks carried out in the real environment. Success in transfer of navigation skill performance was markedly high suggesting that interacting with AbES leads to the generation of an accurate spatial mental representation. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between success in game play and navigation task performance. The role of virtual environments and gaming in the development of mental spatial representations is also discussed. We conclude that this game based learning approach can facilitate the transfer of spatial knowledge and further, can be used by individuals who are blind for the purposes of navigation in real-world environments.
Alberti CF, Peli E, Bowers AR. Driving with hemianopia: III. Detection of stationary and approaching pedestrians in a simulator. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2014;55(1):368-74.Abstract
PURPOSE: To compare blind-side detection performance of drivers with homonymous hemianopia (HH) for stationary and approaching pedestrians, initially appearing at small (4°) or large (14°) eccentricities in a driving simulator. While the stationary pedestrians did not represent an imminent threat, as their eccentricity increased rapidly as the vehicle advanced, the approaching pedestrians maintained a collision course with approximately constant eccentricity, walking or running, toward the travel lane as if to cross. METHODS: Twelve participants with complete HH and without spatial neglect pressed the horn whenever they detected a pedestrian while driving along predetermined routes in two driving simulator sessions. Miss rates and reaction times were analyzed for 52 stationary and 52 approaching pedestrians. RESULTS: Miss rates were higher and reaction times longer on the blind than the seeing side (P < 0.01). On the blind side, miss rates were lower for approaching than stationary pedestrians (16% vs. 29%, P = 0.01), especially at larger eccentricities (20% vs. 54%, P = 0.005), but reaction times for approaching pedestrians were longer (1.72 vs. 1.41 seconds; P = 0.03). Overall, the proportion of potential blind-side collisions (missed and late responses) was not different for the two paradigms (41% vs. 35%, P = 0.48), and significantly higher than for the seeing side (3%, P = 0.002). CONCLUSIONS: In a realistic pedestrian detection task, drivers with HH exhibited significant blind-side detection deficits. Even when approaching pedestrians were detected, responses were often too late to avoid a potential collision.
Wiecek E, Dakin SC, Bex P. Metamorphopsia and letter recognition. J Vis 2014;14(14)Abstract

Acuity is the most commonly used measure of visual function, and reductions in acuity are associated with most eye diseases. Metamorphopsia-a perceived distortion of visual space-is another common symptom of visual impairment and is currently assessed qualitatively using Amsler (1953) charts. In order to quantify the impact of metamorphopsia on acuity, we measured the effect of physical spatial distortion on letter recognition. Following earlier work showing that letter recognition is tuned to specific spatial frequency (SF) channels, we hypothesized that the effect of distortion might depend on the spatial scale of visual distortion just as it depends on the spatial scale of masking noise. Six normally sighted observers completed a 26 alternate forced choice (AFC) Sloan letter identification task at five different viewing distances, and the letters underwent different levels of spatial distortion. Distortion was controlled using spatially band-pass filtered noise that spatially remapped pixel locations. Noise was varied over five spatial frequencies and five magnitudes. Performance was modeled with logistic regression and worsened linearly with increasing distortion magnitude and decreasing letter size. We found that retinal SF affects distortion at midrange frequencies and can be explained with the tuning of a basic contrast sensitivity function, while object-centered distortion SF follows a similar pattern of letter object recognition sensitivity and is tuned to approximately three cycles per letter (CPL). The interaction between letter size and distortion makes acuity an unreliable outcome for metamorphopsia assessment.

Dagi LR, Tiedemann LM, Heidary G, Robson CD, Hall AM, Zurakowski D. Using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography to detect optic neuropathy in patients with craniosynostosis. J AAPOS 2014;18(6):543-9.Abstract

BACKGROUND: Detecting and monitoring optic neuropathy in patients with craniosynostosis is a clinical challenge due to limited cooperation, and subjective measures of visual function. The purpose of this study was to appraise the correlation of peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness measured by spectral-domain ocular coherence tomography (SD-OCT) with indication of optic neuropathy based on fundus examination. METHODS: The medical records of all patients with craniosynostosis presenting for ophthalmic evaluation during 2013 were retrospectively reviewed. The following data were abstracted from the record: diagnosis, historical evidence of elevated intracranial pressure, current ophthalmic evaluation and visual field results, and current peripapillary RNFL thickness. RESULTS: A total of 54 patients were included (mean age, 10.6 years [range, 2.4-33.8 years]). Thirteen (24%) had evidence of optic neuropathy based on current fundus examination. Of these, 10 (77%) demonstrated either peripapillary RNFL elevation and papilledema or depression with optic atrophy. Sensitivity for detecting optic atrophy was 88%; for papilledema, 60%; and for either form of optic neuropathy, 77%. Specificity was 94%, 90%, and 83%, respectively. Kappa agreement was substantial for optic atrophy (κ = 0.73) and moderate for papilledema (κ = 0.39) and for either form of optic neuropathy (κ = 0.54). Logistic regression indicated that peripapillary RNFL thickness was predictive of optic neuropathy (P < 0.001). Multivariable analysis demonstrated that RNFL thickness measurements were more sensitive at detecting optic neuropathy than visual field testing (likelihood ratio = 10.02; P = 0.002). Sensitivity and specificity of logMAR visual acuity in detecting optic neuropathy were 15% and 95%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Peripapillary RNFL thickness measured by SD-OCT provides adjunctive evidence for identifying optic neuropathy in patients with craniosynostosis and appears more sensitive at detecting optic atrophy than papilledema.