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Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(14):2011-23.

Restitution of visual functions in cerebrally blind children.

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Institute for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Heiglhofstr. 63, D-81377 Munich, Germany.


In adult patients who suffer from a visual field defect due to cerebral lesions, visual functions can be restored by systematic visual field training. Such visual field training is not feasible in young, brain-damaged children, who are unable to cooperate like adults. We have already shown earlier [Werth, R., and Moehrenschlager, M. (1999). The development of visual functions in cerebrally blind children during a systematic visual field training. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 15, 229-241.] that systematic visual field training, which requires no ability to understand instructions or to cooperate, is successful in brain-damaged children and may lead to complete recovery of the visual field within 3 months. The present study provides more behavioral evidence and a control of intraocular light scatter. In addition to the earlier study, the luminance difference thresholds in the recovered visual field were compared with those of a normal control group. Seventeen children aged 1-4 years who had been blind for more than 1 year after perinatal asphyxia and two children suffering from homonymous hemianopia due to asphyxic-ischemic lesions participated in systematic visual field training. The functional visual field was assessed with a specially designed arc perimeter. Visual functions developed within a training period of 3 months in 11 children who received visual field training, whereas there was no recovery in the control group (N=37). The findings support the assumption that systematic visual field training facilitates the development of vision in cerebrally blind children. In two children who recovered from blindness, it was shown in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that brain tissue in the area of the visual cortex contralateral to the blind visual hemifield was activated by light. In two children suffering from asphyxic-ischemic lesions who did not recover only brain tissue in the area of the visual cortex contralateral to the good visual hemifield could be activated by light. These results support the assumption that activity in spared tissue of the striate and extrastriate visual cortex are a necessary condition for recovery of the visual field in children suffering from cerebral blindness.

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