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Successful tactile based visual sensory substitution use functions independently of visual pathway integrity

Lee, VK and Nau, AC and Laymon, C and Chan, KC and Rosario, BL and Fisher, C (2014) Successful tactile based visual sensory substitution use functions independently of visual pathway integrity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8 (MAY).

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Purpose: Neuronal reorganization after blindness is of critical interest because it has implications for the rational prescription of artificial vision devices. The purpose of this study was to distinguish the microstructural differences between perinatally blind (PB), acquired blind (AB), and normally sighted controls (SCs) and relate these differences to performance on functional tasks using a sensory substitution device (BrainPort). Methods: We enrolled 52 subjects (PB n = 11; AB n = 35; SC n = 6). All subjects spent 15 h undergoing BrainPort device training. Outcomes of light perception, motion, direction, temporal resolution, grating, and acuity were tested at baseline and after training. Twenty-six of the subjects were scanned with a three Tesla MRI scanner for diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and with a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner for mapping regional brain glucose consumption during sensory substitution function. Non-parametric models were used to analyze fractional anisotropy (FA; a DTI measure of microstructural integrity) of the brain via region-of-interest (ROI) analysis and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). Results: At baseline, all subjects performed all tasks at chance level. After training, light perception, time resolution, location and grating acuity tasks improved significantly for all subject groups. ROI and TBSS analyses of FA maps show areas of statistically significant differences (p ≤ 0.025) in the bilateral optic radiations and some visual association connections between all three groups. No relationship was found between FA and functional performance with the BrainPort. Discussion: All subjects showed performance improvements using the BrainPort irrespective of nature and duration of blindness. Definite brain areas with significant microstructural integrity changes exist among PB, AB, and NC, and these variations are most pronounced in the visual pathways. However, the use of sensory substitution devices is feasible irrespective of microstructural integrity of the primary visual pathways between the eye and the brain. Therefore, tongue based devices devices may be usable for a broad array of non-sighted patients. © 2014 Lee, Nau, Laymon, Chan, Rosario and Fisher.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lee, VKvkl2@pitt.eduVKL2
Nau, AC
Laymon, Ccml14@pitt.eduCML14
Chan, KC
Rosario, BL
Fisher, C
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Date: 13 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume: 8
Number: MAY
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00291
Schools and Programs: School of Medicine > Ophthalmology
School of Medicine > Radiology
Swanson School of Engineering > Bioengineering
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 05 May 2015 15:59
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2020 14:57


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