ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2008) — A new study from Georgia Tech shows that when patients with macular degeneration focus on using another part of their retina to compensate for their loss of central vision, their brain seems to compensate by reorganizing its neural connections. Age–related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. The study appears in the December edition of the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.
“Our results show that the patient’s behavior may be critical to get the brain to reorganize in response to disease,” said Eric Schumacher, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Psychology. “It’s not enough to lose input to a brain region for that region to reorganize; the change in the patient’s behavior also matters.”
In this case, that change of behavior comes when patients with macular degeneration, a disease in which damage to the retina causes patients to lose their vision in the center of their visual field, make up for this loss by focusing with other parts of their visual field.