Low Vision News

For low vision specialists and those who consult them

Envision 2010 – Research overview

Here is the first of my reports from Envision 2010, concentrating on the research sessions.

Envision has really increased the profile of its research sessions recently and this is reflected in the number of people who were presenting new findings at this meeting. Although the organisers hope that there will be overlap between clinical and research sessions at the meeting, in my experience most of my academic colleagues spent 90% of the conference in the research stream with only occasional forays into the more clinical sessions.

The session I most enjoyed was the discussion on cortical reorganisation in macular degeneration. This session, moderated by Gordon Legge, included people with very different views on the extent to which the primary visual cortex changes in macular disease. Chris Baker from NIH (and formerly the Kanwisher lab in Boston) opened proceedings by presenting functional MRI data showing that the lesion projection zone in primary visual cortex did show activation in people with advanced macular disease. Another speaker, Tony Morland from the University of York (UK), showed that this did not occur in the cohort of people he studied, and presented some possible explanations for the cortical activity measured by other groups. The remaining speakers maintained the high level of the presentations and debate was lively throughout the session.

Other research sessions I particularly liked were the discussion on perceptual filling-in chaired by Walter Wittich from Montreal; the reading session moderated by Don Fletcher; and the Quality of Life session chaired by Bob Massof.

The most interesting new data I saw were those presented by Ava Bittner who looked at variability in quality of life experienced by people with retinitis pigmentosa. I also enjoyed the data which Don Fletcher presented on the perception of scotomas by people with macular disease: he showed that only 1 of 108 people perceived their scotoma as a black portion in the centre of their vision (and this one person only noticed it when first waking up before moving her eyes). It really is time people stopped using the NIH picture of AMD as an example of this condition.

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