Vision impairment provides new insight into self-motion perception

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Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science


PURPOSE. Leading causes of irreversible blindness such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma can, respectively, lead to central or peripheral vision loss. The ability of sufferers to process visual motion information can be impacted even during early stages of eye disease. We used head-mounted display virtual reality as a tool to better understand how vision changes caused by eye diseases directly affect the processing of visual information critical for self-motion perception. METHODS. Participants with intermediate AMD or early manifest glaucoma with nearnormal visual acuities and visual fields were recruited for this study. We examined their experiences of self-motion in depth (linear vection), spatial presence, and cybersickness when viewing radially expanding patterns of optic flow simulating different speeds of self-motion in depth. Viewing was performed with the head stationary (passive condition) or while making lateral-sway head movements (active conditions). RESULTS. Participants with AMD (i.e., central visual field loss) were found to have greater vection strength and spatial presence, compared to participants with normal visual fields. However, participants with glaucoma (i.e., peripheral visual field loss) were found to have lower vection strength and spatial presence, compared to participants with normal visual fields. Both AMD and glaucoma groups reported reduced severity in cybersickness compared to healthy normals. CONCLUSIONS. These findings strongly support the view that perceived self-motion is differentially influenced by peripheral versus central vision loss, and that patients with different visual field defects are oppositely biased when processing visual cues to self-motion perception.

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