To fully understand the eye disease glaucoma, it is important to also understand whether the adult human brain retains the ability to adapt to damage at the level of the eye. In a recent paper in the journal Scientific Reports, Joana Carvalho and colleagues provide evidence that this is the case. Using fMRI, in participants with glaucoma they found evidence for local differences in receptive field size and locations. These are not present when control participants view stimuli with simulated defects that mimic the vision of the participants with glaucoma. This implies these differences are due to long-term adaptation to the defect. Establishing such plasticity is important, in particular with an eye on the future, when it may be possible to repair glaucomatous damage, e.g. using stem-cell based approaches. The paper can be download via this link.
The coarse organization of the visual cortex of glaucoma participants remains intact, and is largely comparable to that of control participants (NS). When the latter view a stimulus with a simulated defect (control SS), measured differences are larger. This implies retention of function despite the damage at the level of the eye. At a smaller scale, there is evidence of changes in receptive field sizes and locations, which implies plasticity.