05:23am Saturday 21 October 2017

How to shrink your blind spot

UQ researchers Mr Paul Miller and Associate Professor Derek Arnold say most people don’t even know they have a blind spot in their vision, let alone understand that they could reduce it by as much as 10 per cent.

“Every human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot, due to the point where the optic nerve must pass through the retina,” Mr Miller said.

“When images project to that precise location, we miss them.

“Our research has some good news though – you can shrink your blind spot by up to 10 per cent with training, even though there will always be a hole in your visual field.”

The neuroscientists at UQ’s School of Psychology may have opened the way to new treatments for the developed world’s leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration.

“You can only enhance sensitivity at the blind spot periphery, but this has proved sufficient to bring about a 10 per cent reduction in functional blindness,” Mr Miller said.

The research involved training 10 people for 20 consecutive days on a direction-discrimination task.

Participants were presented with a drifting waveform in a ring centred around the blind spot in one of their eyes.

“At the end of the training, there were improvements in the ability to correctly judge both the direction and the colour of the waveform,” Mr Miller said.

“Training on one eye did not transfer to the blind spot in the untrained eye, suggesting that the improvement wasn’t simply a matter of practising the task.

“We did not confidently expect to see much reduction in functional blindness, as you can never develop photosensitivity within the blind spot itself.

“If training can reduce the physiological blind spot, it might prove similarly effective in other cases of blindness or be used to assist developing technologies, such as the bionic eye or retinal stem cell therapy.”

The research, supported by the Australian Research Council, is published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

Media: Mr Paul Miller, paul.miller@uqconnect.edu.au, +61 407 784 101; Dr Derek Arnold, d.arnold@psy.uq.edu.au, +61 422 715 033; Senior Media Officer– Robert Burgin, r.burgin@uq.edu.au, + 617 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364 .


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