Computer Technique Could Help Partially Sighted ‘See’ Better

Thousands of people who are partially-sighted following stroke or brain injury could gain greater independence from a simple, cheap and accessible training course which could eventually be delivered from their mobile phones or hand-held games consoles, according to a new study.The new research has found that a computer-based technique developed and assessed by Durham University improved partially-sighted people’s ability to ‘see’ better. It may eventually improve and broaden the portfolio of rehabilitation techniques for partially-sighted patients.The study, published in the academic journal, Brain, tested the technique on patients who suffer from a condition affecting their sight called hemianopia.Hemianopia affects over 4,000 people in the UK each year. Sufferers lose half of their visual field due to stroke or other brain injury. They are heavily dependent on others as they struggle with balance, walking, finding things around the house, and they are not normally able to drive.The study, which tested patients’ visual ability before and after the training, found that patients became faster and more accurate at detecting objects, such as coloured dots or numbers, on a computer screen.The researchers believe the test helped patients to compensate for their lost vision by exploring their ‘blind field’ more, which is the part of the visual field affected by the brain damage. Further research is needed to pinpoint exactly why the technique helps patients to ‘see’ better but the scientists believe it is likely due to improved attention, concentration and awareness of their visual problems.

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