This site is intended for health professionals only

New method aids partially-sighted

A simple, cheap and accessible training course could help thousands of people who have been left partially-sighted by a stroke or brain injury gain greater independence, it has been revealed.

Durham University has developed and assessed a computer-based technique, which could eventually be delivered from mobile phones and hand-held game consoles, aiding partially-sighted people's ability to "see" better. It could eventually lead to a new range of rehabilitation techniques for partially-sighted patients.

The technique was tested on patients who suffer from hemianopia, a condition affecting more than 4,000 people in the UK each year where sufferers lose half their visual field due to stroke or other brain injury.

They are heavily dependent on others because they struggle with balance, walking and finding things around the house, while they are not normally able to drive.

The study, which tested patients' visual ability before and after the training, found that patients became faster and more accurate at detecting objects, such as coloured dots or numbers, on a computer screen.

The researchers believe the test helped patients to compensate for their lost vision by better exploring their "blind field", which is the part of the visual field affected by the brain damage.

Further research is needed to pinpoint exactly why the technique helps patients to "see" better but the scientists believe it is likely due to improved attention, concentration and awareness of their visual problems.

Lead researcher, Dr Alison Lane, from Durham University's Psychology Department, said: "This simple technique is a very viable rehabilitation option and in future could be easily accessible at low cost to everyone who needs it."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Durham University

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I think it is a fantastic breakthrough. I suffer from right hemianopia and feel frustrated and annoyed when I can't read a full sentence. Would like to do the training course to improve my vision" - Manon Marsden, Middlesex