Researchers discover a link between sharp vision and the brain's processing speed

March 4, 2014, Tel Aviv University
Researchers discover a link between sharp vision and the brain's processing speed

Middle-aged adults who suddenly need reading glasses, patients with traumatic brain injuries, and people with visual disorders such as "lazy eye" may have one thing in common—"visual crowding," an inability to recognize individual items surrounded by multiple objects. Visual crowding makes it impossible to read, as single letters within words are rendered illegible. And basic cognitive functions such as facial recognition can also be significantly hampered. Scientists and clinicians currently attribute crowding to a disorder in peripheral vision.

Now Prof. Uri Polat, Maria Lev, and Dr. Oren Yehezkel of Tel Aviv University's Goldschleger Eye Research Institute at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine have discovered new evidence that correlates crowding in the fovea—a small part of the retina responsible for sharp —and the brain's processing speed. These findings, published in Nature's Scientific Reports, could greatly alter earlier models of visual crowding, which emphasized peripheral impairment exclusively. And for many adults lost without their reading glasses, this could improve their vision significantly.

"Current theories strongly stress that visual crowding does not exist in the fovea, that it's a phenomenon that exists only in peripheral visual fields," said Prof. Polat. "But our study points to another part of the eye altogether—the fovea—and contributes to a unified model for how the brain integrates ."

A trained eye

According to Prof. Polat, vision is dynamic and changes rapidly, but it takes time for the brain to process this visual information. Rapidly moving tickers on TV, or traffic signs seen as the driver speeds past, are difficult for anyone to read. However, given enough time, someone with excellent vision can fully recognize the words. Those with slower processing speeds—usually the result of poor perceptive development or age—may not be able to decipher the tickers or the traffic signs. In the study, Prof. Polat employed his expertise in improving vision by retraining the brain and the foveal part of the eye, using exercises in which speed is a key element.

"Training adults to reduce foveal crowding leads to improved vision. A similar training we conducted two years ago allowed adults to eliminate their use of altogether, using a technology provided by the GlassesOff company. Other patients who had lost sharp vision for whatever reason were also able to benefit from the same training and improve their processing speed and visual capabilities," said Prof. Polat.

Maria Lev, who performed the study as a part of her doctoral thesis, said one young subject had experienced significant limitations in school for years and had been unable to obtain a driver's license due to severe from foveal crowding. After undergoing training that emphasized a foveal rather than a peripheral focus, he was able to overcome the handicap.

"He finally managed to learn to read properly and found his way forward," said Lev. "I'm proud to say that today he is not only eligible for a driver's license, he's also been able to earn his master's degree."

Prof. Polat and his team are currently exploring how visual integration and foveal develop in various clinical cases.

Explore further: Human eye movements for vision are remarkably adaptable

Related Stories

Human eye movements for vision are remarkably adaptable

August 15, 2013
When something gets in the way of our ability to see, we quickly pick up a new way to look, in much the same way that we would learn to ride a bike, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology on August ...

When it comes to vision, brain can perform more than one function without sacrificing time or accuracy

January 15, 2014
Many studies suggest that pushing your brain to multitask—writing emails, for instance, while watching the day's latest news and eating breakfast—leads to poorer performance and lower productivity. But for at least one ...

Recommended for you

Epilepsy linked to brain volume and thickness differences

January 22, 2018
Epilepsy is associated with thickness and volume differences in the grey matter of several brain regions, according to new research led by UCL and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EnricM
5 / 5 (2) Mar 05, 2014
What the heck mates?
This is commercial spam for an iPad app.
I smell the same type of BS as with these "train your brain" sites.

SPAM

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.