Perceptual learning leads to long lasting visual improvement in patients with central vision loss

Maniglia, Marcello and Pavan, Andrea and Sato, Giovanni and Contemori, Giulio and Montemurro, Sonia and Battaglini, Luca and Casco, Clara (2016) Perceptual learning leads to long lasting visual improvement in patients with central vision loss. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 34 (5). pp. 697-720. ISSN 0922-6028

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Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive



Macular Degeneration (MD), a visual disease that produces central vision loss, is one of the main causes of visual disability in western countries. Patients with MD are forced to use a peripheral retinal locus (PRL) as a substitute of the fovea. However, the poor sensitivity of this region renders basic everyday tasks very hard for MD patients.


We investigated whether perceptual learning (PL) with lateral masking in the PRL of MD patients, improved their residual visual functions.


Observers were trained with two distinct contrast detection tasks: (i) a Yes/No task with no feedback (MD: N = 3; controls: N = 3), and (ii) a temporal two-alternative forced choice task with feedback on incorrect trials (i.e., temporal-2AFC; MD: N = 4; controls: N = 3). Observers had to detect a Gabor patch (target) flanked above and below by two high contrast patches (i.e., lateral masking). Stimulus presentation was monocular with durations varying between 133 and 250 ms. Participants underwent 24- 27 training sessions in total.


Both PL procedures produced significant improvements in the trained task and learning transferred to visual acuity. Besides, the amount of transfer was greater for the temporal-2AFC task that induced a significant improvement of the contrast sensitivity for untrained spatial frequencies. Most importantly, follow-up tests on MD patients trained with the temporal-2AFC task showed that PL effects were retained between four and six months, suggesting long-term neural plasticity changes in the visual cortex.


The results show for the first time that PL with a lateral masking configuration has strong, non-invasive and long lasting rehabilitative potential to improve residual vision in the PRL of patients with central vision loss.

Keywords:Macular Degeneration, Perceptual Learning, Yes/No task, Two-alternative forced choice task, NotOAChecked
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:24219
Deposited On:23 Sep 2016 21:00

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