Macular degenerative disease is one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults across the world. It is characterized by loss of central vision as part of the inner layers of the retina that facilitate clear vision steadily break down. Around 20 million adults in America are estimated to live with some kind of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), with adults aged 75 and above having a 30% risk of developing the disease.
The condition makes it extremely frustrating and difficult to read, forcing many AMD patients to give up on reading altogether. However, a study from the University of Waterloo has found that AMD patients may be able to improve their reading abilities through a treatment that involves brain stimulation. Although drug treatments are capable of slowing the progression of macular degeneration, they do little to alleviate the loss of reading ability suffered by patients with macular degeneration.
Scientists at the institution sought to determine if transcranial direct current stimulation was capable of improving reading ability in patients with age-related macular degeneration. This is a painless, noninvasive treatment that stimulates parts of the brain using direct electrical currents. By using this treatment to stimulate the visual cortex, scientists were able to boost the brain’s ability to use information from the eye as efficiently as possible. As a result, this treatment could improve the vision of macular degeneration patients to such a degree that they can read with ease.
Usually, the degeneration of the retina causes central vision to steadily become blurred until patients lose the ability to see fine details in high resolution. Such patients are then forced to use their peripheral vision, which isn’t as sharp as central vision, to try and make out the text on a page or screen. This process can be so frustrating that many macular degeneration patients completely give up on reading.
The recent University of Waterloo study involved presenting participants with 30 sentences, one word at a time, before stimulating their brains for 20 minutes while they read 30 extra sentences word by word. Immediate analysis of their reading accuracy (5 and 30 minutes later) revealed an improvement in reading accuracy, thanks to the stimulation.
Surprisingly, in a parallel study by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University that leveraged the same methodology and required participants to read one Chinese word, there was no improvement in reading accuracy after stimulation. Researchers posited that this may be due to the inherent differences between the English and Chinese writing systems.
University research chair and a professor in the School of Optometry and Vision Science, Dr. Ben Thompson, noted that the stimulation eased the crowding effect usually seen in English words, making the treatment more effective for English readers compared to Chinese readers.
The researchers published their results in the “Brain Stimulation” journal.
Enterprises such as BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) are heavily investing in the development of new treatments for macular degeneration. As success is registered on this front, patients will have a chance at experiencing better clinical outcomes after starting treatment.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/BVXV
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